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Top CFATF officials coming to hopefully end stalemate over money laundering law

Top officials of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) are due in Guyana at the weekend to hopefully break the deadlock between government and opposition over amendments to the 2009 financial crimes law, a senior administration official said Thursday night.

Expected here to hold talks with both sides on Saturday are CFATF Chairperson, Allyson Maynard-Gibson, who is The Bahamas’ Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, and Executive Director Calvin Wilson.

Gail Teixeira, who is chairing the parliamentary select committee that’s examining amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act (AML/CFT), told Demerara Waves Online News that the committee was informed about this weekend’s meeting.

“They are coming to talk to the opposition and the government with the hope to assist in seeing if the Bill can be brought to the House and passed in time for the plenary in May of CFATF,” she said.

Texeira said the officials “offered to come of their own volition” less than one month before the CFATF Plenary is expected to consider Guyana’s status in meeting compliance.

The Presidential Advisor on Governance explained that the officials of the Trinidad-headquartered regional watchdog on financial crimes were “deeply concerned” that Guyana was yet to resolve its differences. “They are coming to Guyana because they are deeply concerned at the fact that Guyana is the only country in the region that is not in compliance with CFATF standards and requirements and that we are not only putting Guyana in jeopardy but we are putting the whole region,” she said.

Asked whether the CFATF officials were hoping to persuade the two sides to accept the opposition’s amendments, Teixeira said the intention was to get the CFATF-compliant government sponsored amendments passed by the opposition-controlled House. “CFATF has recognised the agreed-on Bill… That’s CFATF compliant. I don’t know what they would think of these amendments which are to the Principal Act,” she said.

When contacted about Thursday’s Select Committee meeting, Carl Greenidge of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) made no reference to the upcoming CFATF talks. At the time when CFATF Financial Advisor, Roger Hernandez had visited Guyana, Greenidge had previously maintained that no regional or international agency could direct how a sovereign country should conduct its affairs.

Citing concerns about government’s overarching influence in certain institutions, APNU has been demanding that the law be amended to include an Anti Money Laundering Authority to appoint the head and deputy head of the Financial Intelligence Unit. That opposition party also wants a mechanism set up for civilian oversight to monitor the enforcement of the law and make recommendations.

When asked about the outcome of Thursday’s meeting, Greenidge said the draft prepared by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel Cecil Durjohn was examined and they hoped to reach agreement on the wording on who appoints the Authority.

Guyana runs the risk of being blacklisted by the France-headquartered global watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which could result in increased cost of doing business and severely slow down transactions such as the purchase of fuel and pharmaceuticals

The 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM, Organisation of American States (OAS), United States and the local Private Sector Commission have all called on Guyana to enact the amendments swiftly.