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Anti-money laundering bill survives, returned to Select C’ttee

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

The anti-money laundering legislation has survived a second trip to the House with the National Assembly late Thursday night voting to send it to a Special Select Committee once again.

The opposition parties voted against the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill (AML/CFT) last month after it exited the Special Select Committee where it had been sent in May on their insistence. The relevant Standing Order had to be suspended to facilitate its return to the House.

The AFC had linked its support for the bill to government’s establishment of the constitutionally required Public Procurement Commission while the APNU’s support hinged on ensuring that the law was properly amended and the Financial Intelligence Unit adequately staffed and equipped.

The failure to pass the bill resulted in Guyana being identified for sanctions by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) with additional measures likely to come into play should the bill not be approved by February.

But the opposition parties’ positions on the bill remained unchanged despite the exhortations of the government and its willingness to send it back to a Select Committee was always its best bet. However, the issue is further complicated by the AFC’s stance given that the parties earlier voted to defer a bill on the Procurement Commission for six months.

The bill sought to preserve the Cabinet’s “no objection” role in the awarding of contracts, a provision that both opposition parties oppose. AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan in declaring his party’s support to send the AML/CFT Bill to the Select Committee said the set-up of the Procurement Commission has to be done in tandem with the deliberations on the financial legislation.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who has been piloting the AML/CFT, called for the work of the Select Committee to be completed on or before January 31 and that its proceedings be open to the media unlike the last time.

The CFATF cautioned Guyana that it had until May 2014 to correct the deficiencies in the legislation or be referred to the Financial Action Task Force, an international body independent of the regional affiliate. However, the government has pointed out that FATF will be meeting in February and could unilaterally decide to call Guyana up for review.

The National Assembly will meet next on January 16.