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Govt parl. committee members winding down consideration of anti-money laundering bill

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

Attorney General Anil Nandlall says government representatives in the parliamentary select committee were winding down consideration of the financial crimes bill in the absence of opposition representatives who walked out of the meeting Tuesday night.

Nandlall told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that while opposition members of the committee were expected to return to the table on Thursday (later today) if there was no consensus, the report would be finalised and taken back to the full House even at the risk of it being voted down again.

“The Bill will be returned to the National Assembly Monday when the vote shall be taken there I suppose and whatever happens happens,” he said of the Bill to amend the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) which was first tabled in the House since March 2013.

With the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) already blacklisting Guyana for non-compliance, the France-based global financial crimes watchdog- Financial Action Task Force (FATF)- could place Guyana on a global blacklist when it meets from February 12 to 14, 2014.

If APNU in the end appears that it would withhold its support for the Bill, Nandlall said government would possibly lobby the Alliance For Change (AFC) to add its seven seats to the government’s 32 and so allow the Bill to be passed. The AFC has no objection to the amendments but wants them tied to the establishment of the long-awaited constitutionally required Public Procurement Commission. That has been held up over government’s desire to retain Cabinet’s no-objection in the award of multi-million dollar contracts for goods and services.

The AFC’s votes would be a crucial decider especially in light of the fact that APNU has insisted that it would not vote for any government-sponsored legislation unless steps are taken for President Donald Ramotar to eventually assent several Bills that have been approved by the one-seat opposition controlled House.

When opposition members of the Committee walked out of the meeting Tuesday night, Nandlall said government representatives stayed back and considered submissions by a number of stakeholders and interested persons who had appeared before the committee.
They are the Guyana Bankers Association, Distinguished Economics Professor Clive Thomas, Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram and the Private Sector Commission (PSC).

Since the walkout by the opposition over government’s insistence that the PSC should be granted full observer status at the meetings, A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) committee members Carl Greenidge and Jaipaul Sharma have left the country.

Government has consistently maintained that the opposition has been only giving lip service to the need for strong legislation but has failed to provide concrete proposals. Nandlall said, instead, the opposition has been piggybacking on presentations by stakeholders.

The Attorney General warned that if the opposition’s filibustering continued the administration would risk going back to the Assembly with the report of the select committee. “They are playing games and I am no longer prepared to play games with them,” he said.

Accusing government of doing little or nothing to go after drug lords and money launderers, APNU has insisted on not only a solid AML/CFT law but also strong institutions like the Financial Intelligence Unit to take decisive action against culprits.