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CFATF rejects opposition’s amendments to Anti-Money Laundering law

Attorney General, Anil Nandlall

Attorney General, Anil Nandlall on Monday said the opposition’s proposed amendments to the 2009 Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act have been rejected by the regional financial crimes watchdog based in Trinidad.

He was quoted by the Government Information Agency (GINA) as saying that the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) had requested a copy of the opposition’s proposed amendments shortly after the CFTAF Chairperson Allyson Maynard-Gibson had visited here last month

“As I predicted, the CFTAF rejected every single one of the amendments that they are proposing,” he said.

The opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has been arguing that given Guyana’s peculiar circumstances such as alleged corruption and maladministration, the AML governance structure needs to contain a number of safeguards.

The Attorney General, noting that the opposition has not participated in meetings of the parliamentary select committee that has been examining amendments to the legislation, said the country risked be referred to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris, France for an ICRG (International Cooperation Review Group) review.

He said Guyana was required to approve the government-sponsored Bill before May 26 or be declared non grata by  FATF to its member states as a country that is non-cooperative in the global fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism.

One of the proposals calls for a removal of the role of the Attorney General from the process. “The CFTAF’s answer to that suggestion was that it is wrong. The Attorney General is put there because he/she is legal advisor to the Government and would be recipient of all legal materials that would come into the Government’s position in relation to its relations with organisations such as the United Nations Security Council and other international organisations. And it is the Attorney General that will have to go to court for and behalf of the Government to seek certain orders to give effect to the Government’s obligation  under various treaties, and therefore the Office of the Attorney General is important in the legislative apparatus of the AMLCFT regime,” Minister Nandlall explained.

The Opposition also proposed that Parliament appoint an authority to oversee and supervise the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), its operations and officers. Government has long maintained that this type of mechanism would undermine the functional autonomy of the FIU which by all international standards must be functionally independent and autonomous in the discharge of its day to day function, and as well, must be free and insulated from political interference and influence both apparent and real, a view shared by CFTAF. Minister Nandlall noted that CFTAF has rejected as well this proposal.

“The CFTAF’s advice on that particular proposal of the Opposition was that it does not meet the international standards, that the mechanism for appointment is politically contaminated and that the method or the mechanism that it creates removes from the FIU and its staff and directors that important requisite autonomy and functional independence,” Minister Nandlall disclosed.

The third condemnation relates to what was submitted of the Opposition’s draft with regards to seizure of cash. This was rejected on the basis that it was not part of the requirement and that it is a completely unnecessary imposition, Minister Nandlall said.

 Guyana has missed two deadlines to pass the CFATF cut-off date to pass the legislation-one on November 28, 2013 and the other on February 28, 2014.

Guyana failed to meet the first time limit after the opposition used their one-seat majority in the National Assembly to vote down the bill, which led to the country being blacklisted at the regional level.

Nandall said on the second occasion the opposition at the last moment proposed amendments, which are not related to the CFATF compliant Bill, but to the Principal Act, which was passed in 2009.