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Private Sector Commission wants Barbados-model money laundering law; President insists on govt amendments

PSC Chairman Ronald Webster

The Private Sector Commission’s (PSC) proposal that Guyana should adopt the Barbados model for establishing an oversight board to monitor the anti-money laundering and terrorist financing architecture has been struck down by President Donald Ramotar.

PSC Chairman, Ronald Webster told a government-organised National Consultation on the status of amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering Financing Terrorism Act that in light of the year-long stalemate the Barbados system should be adopted.

That he said essentially entails the appointment of an 11-member AML/CFT Board which is chaired by a representative of the university and the deputy is drawn from the private sector. The others are the Solicitor General, the head of Customs, the Supervisor of Insurance, Registrar of Companies, the Central Bank of Barbados and two members of the private sector who are specialized in banking and finance. “We must pass the bill. This is not a political issue,” Webster added.

He later told DemWaves that the Barbados model ensures the removal of political involvement from the process.  “Nothing is perfect but at least it keeps the potential of a bu-out from being avoided,” he said.  The Barbados model provides for the Financial Intelligence Unit to report to the Board after collecting and analysing data. 

But President Donald Ramotar insisted that the government-tabled amendments that have been approved by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). He said that he has already learnt that the CFATF “was beginning to have some problems with the Barbados model.”

“That is the Bill we should pass and if there is to be any amendment it has to be within the framework of what CTAFt wants,” the President added.

Former Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) activist, Julianna Gaul, speaking from the floor, almost immediately rejected Webster’s suggestion about university representation on the board. She noted that the majority of members of the University Council are associated with the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP).

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall explained that the law could not provide for 65 members of the National Assembly -“politically exposed persons”- because that could result in conflict of interest.

Asked by a speaker from the floor what would be the next approach by the government, the President said he was relying on the opposition would cave into the calls by Guyanese for the Bill to be passed in the spirit of patriotism. “I hope your cry will reach some receptive ears in the opposition and that they will agree to move to support us in passing a CFATF-compliant Bill,” said the Guyanese leader.

In responding to questions and comments, the President ignored several calls for fresh elections to be held if the opposition does not allow passage of the amendments.

Thursday’s consultation was held one day after the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Cecil Durjohn presented amendments that reflect recommendations by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and counter amendments by the Attorney General. The Select Committee is due to meet again later this month.

The CFATF has cautioned against other amendments at this stage because it runs the risk of being non-compliant at an assessment by that regional watch-dog.