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Amend anti-money laundering law or risk discouraging investors- officials

money_launderingGuyana is racing to stave off being labeled as a money laundering friendly jurisdiction by upgrading its anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism law before May 27, according to top government and private sector officials. {mp3remote}http://www.maninblacknyc.com/demos/Unfucknbelievable.mp3{/mp3remote}

Cabinet Secretary, Roger Luncheon confirmed that Guyana was given that deadline to show the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force that it has revised the 2009 Anti- Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism Act (AML/CFT) law in keeping with recommendations. While expressing confidence that Guyana would meet that deadline, he skirted questions about the implications of missing it.

Other senior government officials have, however, said that if the laws were not revised Guyana could be listed as a country that is friendly to money laundering. Those officials said that such a label could hurt the country’s investment climate and discourage businesses from setting up shop here.

That was largely confirmed by Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ronald Webster who said foreign investors would be reluctant to come here if the money laundering laws are weak.

“If we don’t meet deadlines it could have an impact on foreign direct investment- serious impact- because overseas companies especially in the US (United States), Canada and Europe- if a country becomes suspect, foreign direct investment- firms and partners become fearful because if they become tainted their operations and their parent company could be sued and their assets seized,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

Webster said “tight money laundering controls” to weed out businesses that use funds from drug trafficking and other illegal activities to import and sell goods below the market rate to out-compete legitimate businesses.

The Cabinet Secretary brushed off suggestions that Guyana had waited until the last moment to revise the AML/CFT

“Our usual response has been when we have compiled sufficient amendments or the need for sufficient amendments, we will move to Parliament,” he said, adding that considerable evidence of weaknesses have emerged in the three rounds of evaluations.

He explained that experts from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) eventually reported that the model legislation that had been enacted by Guyana and several other Caribbean countries contained 77 loopholes that have been uncovered in several jurisdictions.

He said crimes have better defined, penalties made more severe and the AML linked to other existing pieces of legislation. The Registry Act and Fugitive Offenders Act, he said, are among other laws that would also have to be amended to bring them in line with the AML/CFT.

“The whole thrust of the AML amendment bill has been to remedy those weaknesses and those deficiencies,” he added.

The Cabinet Secretary said it made no sense for government to go to the National Assembly frequently with amendments. They are now expected to be tabled in the 65-seat House “soon” after the passage of the 2013 National Budget.

With long-term foreign technical assistance, a highly paid team of experts would man a Serious Organised Crime Unit of the Office of the Police Commissioner by year end to enforce the AML/CFT.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation on Development (OECD) has in other jurisdictions pointed to mobile money transfer services and sport betting entities as possible conduits for money laundering. The stealing of 70 gold bars from a Guyana-registered cargo ship in Curacao last November has raised eyebrows in the international community.

The United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) earlier this week teamed up to provide Guyana with experts at a workshop on money laundering.