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APNU’s anti-money laundering amendments may be sent to C/FATF

An FATF Plenary in session (FATF photo)

Government and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) appeared set to agree to send that opposition party’s amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act to regional and international watchdogs on financial crimes to ascertain whether they are workable.

However, President Donald Ramotar has not succeeded in persuading APNU to support the government-sponsored amendments only pending an assessment of the opposition’s proposed amendments by the Trinidad-headquartered Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and the France-based 36-nation Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Demerara Waves Online News was told that the Guyanese leader wrote Granger on Monday, February 10 recommending that APNU’s amendments be sent to CFATF/FATF to ascertain whether or not they are workable.

When contacted, APNU front-bencher and representative on the AML parliamentary select committee, Joseph Harmon was unaware of Ramotar’s letter to Granger.  Harmon said APNU was considering sending its proposed amendments to the CFATF. “We would be happy to do that. As a matter of fact, we are considering doing that,” Harmon told DemWaves Tuesday night.

Emerging out of a post-cabinet briefing with the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on Tuesday, that business organisation said President Ramotar should be taken at his word and avert Guyana being globally blacklisted by FATF at its meeting from February 12 to 14. “The President offered to send their recommendations to CFATF and if sanctioned he will implement them. The President should be commended. The Private Sector is saying approve the amendment now, take the pressure off of Guyana and then you (APNU) have a majority, amend the main act later,” a PSC official said.

APNU’s proposed amendments include the establishment of an Anti Money Laundering Authority, widening of police and customs powers to seize large amounts of cash and jewellery anywhere if there is reasonable suspicion of money laundering or terrorist financing, and involving parliament in the appointment of staff members of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

Sources said Ramotar had Monday also formally proposed that APNU vote in favour of the government-sponsored AML amendments in exchange for the establishment of a bipartisan committee to be established to re-examine the Bills that he has not assented to. That is in response to Granger insisting that steps be taken for the Bills to be debated again, passed by two-thirds of 65-seat House and eventually signed into law.

But Harmon Tuesday night maintained that the passage of the Bill inclusive of APNU’s amendments were so far a non-negotiable. “No we will not do that. These amendments are integral to the entire structure of the Bill,” he said.

Based on correspondence seen by DemWaves, the Opposition Leader was the first to propose to the President that a bipartisan committee be established to review the Bills that have not been signed into law. They are the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2012; Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2013; Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2013 and Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2012.

The 34-nation Organisation of American States (OAS) has offered to dispatch experts from its Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) to help break the deadlock and pass the AML/CFT amendments in the shortest possible time. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the American, British, Canadian and European Union envoys here have all called for the Bill to be passed to avert serious consequences nationally and regionally.