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International pressure intensifies on Guyana to pass anti-money laundering bill

Regional and international pressure on Tuesday mounted on Guyana’s opposition-controlled parliament to approve much needed amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act.

Coming on the heels of Western diplomats warning that Guyana could face “serious consequences” if the changes are not passed, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom) have called for the Bill to get the green light.

Caricom’s call came one day before the parliamentary select committee was due to meet again Wednesday evening to ascertain how parliamentary draughtsmen have included amendments that have been proposed by the opposition members.

Government’s hopes to have the committee finalize consideration of the Bill ahead of a crucial meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) were dashed on Monday when the opposition suspended the meeting to give the draughtsmen time to complete their work. In the interim, the government representatives had hoped to press A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) to vote in favour of the original amendment bill so that the FATF could have been informed before the February 12 to 14 meeting in Paris.

Even if the amendments are completed on Wednesday, it is unclear whether government would vote for them in the full House because already they have registered their objections. APNU wants the law to be amended to establish an Anti Money Laundering Authority and for parliament to play a major role in appointing the staff of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

With the high likelihood of a stalemate, the OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza has offered to play a mediating role in helping to resolve outstanding differences in the shortest possible time. “Further, he offered the cooperation and support of the OAS, through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), to the process that is currently under way in the Parliament of Guyana,” the 34-nation hemispheric organisation said in a statement.

The Secretary General, who has been following events in Guyana relating to this legislation, also noted the legislation would make Guyana compliant with the requirements of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), thus preventing unnecessary damage to the country’s financial stature. The Secretary General therefore calls upon the political parties and other stakeholders to exercise cooperation and understanding in bringing this issue to closure.

Secretary General Insulza mentioned that democracy and good governance are hallmarks of the Organization, and therefore, “the OAS stands ready to support the Guyanese authorities in their pursuit of political dialogue and consensus building, especially on matters of national importance.”

CARICOM, for its part, expressed concern at the continuing delay in Guyana’s progress towards implementing recommendations to address deficiencies in its anti-money laundering regime. The bloc urged that this matter be speedily resolved, by enacting the relevant legislation, in the interest of the people of Guyana and the Community.

CARICOM called on all parties involved in the process to take all necessary actions without further delay to have the necessary reforms implemented.

The Guyana-headquartered regional organisation said it remained deeply concerned that failure to pass the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism Bill (Amendment) in Parliament could result in action by the CFATF which could have an adverse impact on the Guyanese economy and by extension the CARICOM Region as a whole.

“Any action that reduces the ease or increases the cost of processing international financial or trade transactions will adversely affect trade and financial flows in the Region, retard the regional integration enterprise, limit the opportunities for growth in Guyana and the Region and result in hardship for the people of Guyana,” added CARICOM.