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Granger denies refusing Ramotar’s key concession on anti-money laundering law

President Donald Ramotar (left) and Opposition Leader David Granger (GINA file photo)

Opposition Leader, David Granger has denied refusing a major concession by President Donald Ramotar for the passage of amendments to the financial crimes law.

“Contrary to recent pronouncements by his Excellency the President Donald Ramotar nothing was offered to the combined opposition, when he met with the Opposition Leader David Granger yesterday (Wednesday),” APNU said in a statement.

The opposition coalition was reacting to the President’s claim in an address to the nation that he had offered to support all of the opposition’s amendments to the 2009 Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act (AML/CFT) in exchange for a commitment that they would agree to undo them if the regional and global financial crimes watchdogs found that the changes were non-compliant.

“I met with the Leader of the Opposition on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 and I proposed to him that the Government was willing to pass the Bill with the Opposition’s amendments, even though we felt it was non compliant,  and even though we did not agree with it that we would vote for it so that we can have a Bill before the FATF meeting later in June, 2014.

I also proposed to him that if CFATF (Caribbean Financial Action Task Force) and FATF (Financial Action Task Force (FATF) were to find that the Bill had non-compliant provisions, that the Opposition would support amending the Bill accordingly,” said the President in a national address.

Ramotar said Granger, however, “declined my offer.” The President’s announcement that he had offered the concession came just days before the FATF is due to decide whether to impose a global blacklist on the country for its failure to pass the amendments for almost two years now. The CFATF has already cautioned financial institutions to heighten scrutiny of transactions with Guyana.

The President said he proposed to the Opposition Leader at Wednesday’s meeting that because of the urgency of the matter, the Alliance For Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) would not link his offer to pass their AML/CFT amendment bill to their other demands: His assent of all Bills passed by National Assembly and his support for the Public Procurement Commission being established without Cabinet retaining its role in granting no-objection to awards above $15M (GYD).

 At Wednesday’s meeting, which was held at the Opposition Leader’s request, APNU said it  was clear when the two sides met that the President was not willing to negotiate and definitely was not in a conciliatory mood.

“It is clear that the PPP-C (Peoples Progressive Party Civic) is not interested in giving the people of Guyana the strong and enforceable money-laundering legislation that they deserve. Instead the PPP-C has decided to use this situation and any concomitant events to achieve its narrow political objectives,” added APNU.

The opposition wants the AML/CFT amended to include the establishment of an Anti Money Laundering Authority to appoint the head and deputy head of the Financial Intelligence Unit and a Civilian Oversight body to monitor the enforcement of the law with a view to make recommendations. The opposition also wants the powers of police and customs to be widened to seize funds anywhere in Guyana if there is reasonable suspicion that such funds would be used for laundering or financing terrorism.

The private sector, major Western diplomats, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the  Organisation of American States have all warned that Guyana could be blacklisted by the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Experts have said that could result in a spike in the cost and time of financial transactions such as bank transfers for the purchasing of goods and services.