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Guyana closer to global blacklisting for financial crimes- Ramotar

President Donald Ramotar addressing the Independence Flag Raising Ceremony at the National Park on May 25,2014.

President Donald Ramotar has announced that Guyana would be referred to the global financial crimes watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – apparently one step away from being blacklisted as a country that is doing insufficient to fight  money laundering and countering financing of terrorism.

Addressing the nation from the National Park where the 48th Independence Anniversary flag raising ceremony was held Sunday night, the Guyanese leader said blacklisting was now more apparent because the opposition-controlled National Assembly has failed to pass amendments to the 2009 Anti  Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act.

He said the Guyana delegation to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s (CFATF) plenary in Miami, Florida would review Guyana on May 26- Guyana’s Independence Anniversary- and “all indications are that Guyana will automatically be forwarded for review by the FATF.”

“This means that Guyana will be listed immediately as a country that threatens the global financial, banking and insurance systems and countries will be instructed to take protective measures against Guyana,” said Ramotar.

The FATF’s Plenary is scheduled for June 15 to 20 in Moscow, Russia.

The Guyanese leader used the opportunity of his Independence Day address to lash out at the opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance For Change (AFC), saying their refusal to green-light the amendments amounted to “irresponsible and reckless tactics in our body politic”.

He questioned the opposition’s sincerity in its call to weed out corruption and narco-trafficking because it has refused to pass the FATF and CFATF-compliant amendments. “And in blocking such a bill coming to the House they have exposed Guyana to being black listed by the international community with all the consequences that will follow,” he said.

The opposition has insisted on a number of features in the principal act, saying that the peculiar circumstances of governmental interference and corruption meant that there needed to be proper governance and administrative structures to ensure that the legislation is properly enforced.

The opposition wants the main Act to be amended to provide for the establishment of an Anti Money Laundering Authority to appoint the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit, the widening of police and customs powers to seize cash equivalent to US$10,000 or more anywhere in Guyana if there is reasonable suspicion of money laundering in Guyana, and the setting up of a civilian oversight body to monitor the enforcement of the AML/CFT Act.

The CFATF has said the opposition’s proposed amendments were not compliant with the watchdogs’ standards but at the same time has said that States have a right to craft their own systems. “It should be noted that the FATF standards are minimal requirements and in most instances do not stipulate specific detailed measures. Generally, this allows countries to use whatever mechanisms or systems they deem appropriate to implement the standards. Countries can also implement measures that impose obligations beyond what the standards require,” CFATF has told Attorney General, Anil Nandlall in a letter.

The President, meanwhile, cautioned the opposition against what he termed the politics of “no” such as voting down funds for the Marriott hotel, Amaila Falls Hydropower Plant, Specialty Hospital, University of Guyana Student Loan Fund and the Amerindian Development Fund. “Politics of “no” that have characterized the 10th Parliament is hampering and undermining many important projects that have the potential of accelerating economic growth and enhancing the quality of life of all of our people,” he said.