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Guyana misses FATF deadline for passage of anti-money laundering Bill

Guyana’s National Assembly is now unable to pass amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) before the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meets later this week to decide whether to impose a global blacklist on the country.

Government and opposition representatives of the parliamentary select committee told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that parliamentary legal draughtsmen need until Wednesday to incorporate amendments by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU). 

The France-headquartered FATF is set to meet in Paris from February 12 to 14 to consider among other agenda items a review of the implementation of measures taken by a number of countries to address deficiencies identified in the last round of mutual evaluation report, identification of jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT system and a review of the progress made by jurisdictions that had been identified at the October 2013 Plenary.

Government representative on the special select committee Gail Teixeira suggested that lobbying FATF would be virtually impossible because Guyana has treaty obligations. “They are aware over the weekend what has been playing out and they will be advised today what is playing out,” he said.

APNU Committee member Basil Williams reiterated that his party wants the principal act and amended and the proposed amendments changed to reflect the establishment of an anti-money laundering authority, a parliamentary system for the appointment of members of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and widening of police and customs officers’ powers to seize currency anywhere in Guyana. “They are not supporting any of those proposals we have to make the whole architecture of anti-money laundering and the countering of financing terrorism efficacious,” he said.

The Chief Parliamentary Counsel Cecil Durjohn and his deputy are now tasked with including those changes by Wednesday at 6:30 PM.

Teixeira said her side failed to persuade the opposition to pass the Amendment Bill ahead of the FATF meeting and entertain APNU’s proposals at a later date. “Feelers were put out and not just restricted to the committee but clearly those feelers and overtures by the government were repelled or rejected by the (opposition) vote in the committee which said that the Amendment Bill could not go to the House without these amendments,” she said.

The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CAFTF) last November issued an advisory on Guyana to its members to pay heightened attention to transactions in and out of the country because of likely exposure to money laundering and proceeds that could be used to finance terrorism.

The Western diplomatic community and the Private Sector Commission (PSC) have repeatedly urged that the AML/CFT amendments be passed to avoid “serious consequences”.

The Alliance For Change (AFC) has linked its support for the bill to government setting up the long-overdue Public Procurement Commission. However the Donald Ramotar administration first wants the procurement law to be amended to allow for cabinet to grant its no-objection to multi-million dollar contracts for goods and services.

The AFC has contended that the award of contracts without proper oversight by the PPC was resulting in money laundering through bribery and kickbacks.