A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Lead Representative on the parliamentary select committee on amendments to the anti-money laundering bill, Carl Greenidge says his coalition’s proposed amendments stress the need for proper governance of the system.
APNU’s proposed amendments to the 2009 Anti Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act seek to establish an Anti Money Laundering Authority and legislate criteria for recruiting staff for several related agencies.
“We have sought to introduce clauses in the legislation that identify, first of all, the skill requirements,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).
Despite assertions by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) that the opposition’s amendments risked making Guyana non-compliant, Greenidge argued that his proposed raft of amendments are aimed at strengthening governance of systems that are being established to help fight money laundering.
“CFATF can’t know that in relation to Guyana because the Act is very general. Only the President can fire any body so we say CFATF when it comes to governance if you are going to do anything with it you must have clear conditions of appointment and termination,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).
Those institutions include the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Special Organised Crime Unit of the Guyana Police Force, Bank of Guyana and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Greenidge recalled that CFATF’s Financial Advisor, Roger Hernandez had said that he was not there to examine any proposals from either side. He said the Trinidad-based official only cautioned that while the National Assembly had a right to make amendments they might not necessarily make Guyana compliant as it related to those or any other parts of the legislation.
In their discussions about ensuring that the appointments to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) are independent of political influence, APNU pointed to Barbados where it was noted that a Board existed and appointments were made through the Public Service Commission (PSC).
Currently, Guyana’s AML/CFT law provides for the Finance Minister to hire the Head of the FIU and the President to fire that person if he so desires.
Greenidge recalled that Hernandez agreed that the recruitment process for FIU staff must include expertise and qualifications but at the same time the official acknowledged that that mechanism had not been reviewed in Guyana’s case because the FIU had only one person.
CFATF has given Guyana’s National Assembly up to February 28 to approve the government-sponsored amendments or eventually possibly be placed on a blacklist in June 2014 by the France-headquartered Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
APNU wants a 10-member oversight authority to be appointed through the Appointments Committee of the National Assembly. That authority, the coalition said, would hold the FIU responsible for hiring and firing rather than the Finance Minister or the President. “It should not be only in the hands of people appointed by the President. If at the moment we have difficulties with the abuse of power it is going to be the worse if you enhance the powers,” he said.
He added that the relevant investigative and enforcement entities were in dire need of properly trained and qualified personnel.
Opposition Leader, David Granger has noted that money laundering could be the proceeds of systematic tax evasion, gun running and narco trafficking.
Justifying the need for proper civilian oversight through the authority, top APNU officials have accused the enforcement agencies of releasing suspects or turning a blind eye to glaring instances of suspected financial crimes and other offences.