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Govt must go after money launderers to pass next FATF test – Jagdeo

Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall and current Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall and current Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is not buying the position of Attorney General Basil Williams that Guyana is in the green zone for compliance with the global push for anti-money laundering regimes.

“If we lull ourselves into a sense of false security, then we are going to repeat a lot of the mistakes made by the Attorney General, and we are going to put major sectors of our economy in jeopardy particularly the economic sector,” Jagdeo told the press corps on Thursday.

Jagdeo criticized the AG’s report in Parliament saying it is “not a report on progress. It is an admission that what was said to the country, that we are free and clear, that it is not so.”

Jagdeo believes there is still a lot of work to be done. “We may very well find that we are not compliant with applying this Act,” Jagdeo said ahead of Guyana’s upcoming assessment with the Financial Action Task Force.

The Attorney General made a progress report in the National Assembly on Monday.

“We could have avoided a lot of this had they supported us right at the beginning when we made two attempts at the National Assembly to pass recommendations which would have made us compliant that time which would not have seen us going through this enhanced scrutiny,” Jagdeo said.

The Opposition Leader was referring to the brinkmanship politics existing in the Tenth Parliament (2011- 2015), where the then APNU and AFC in opposition indicated their conditional support for the then Ramotar Administration’s AML legislation.

At the time, the APNU was championing local government elections, while the AFC was calling for the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission.

“We cannot play games with the future of the financial sector,” Jagdeo warned adding that “a thriving economy is built on a solid, sound financial system.”

Jagdeo urged against what he called an “attempt to score political points without giving factual points to people,” saying this runs the risk of jeopardizing the financial sector.

Jagdeo turned his attention to a lack of investigations by this administration into money laundering and gold smuggling, even though there have been reports of such.

“Even with 15,000 ounces of gold smuggling out of the country weekly that would have brought $900M into the country, we have not seen evidence of them finding smuggled gold in large quantities.” “It is fallacious. It is just an excuse,” he continued.

Jagdeo said under the fourth round of reviews which Guyana will be going through, Guyana “will be required to go after actual cases. SOCU [Special Organised Crime Unit] will have to go after people that actually engage in money laundering but they are not focusing on that. And if they don’t do that, they will fail the final test.”

The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force had referred Guyana to France-headquartered Financial Action Task Force after the then APNU and AFC opposition had used its one-seat combined majority to block recommended amendments to the 2009 Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing Terrorism Act. The then opposition had instead argued that the amendments needed to be further tightened, a situation that the then PPPC-led administration had argued would have rendered Guyana non-compliant.