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US thumbs up amendments to money laundering law; opposition shocked

Last Updated on Friday, 19 June 2015, 20:04 by GxMedia

US Embassy Charge D’Affaires, Bryan Hunt.

Chargé d’ Affaires of the United States (U.S.) Embassy in Guyana, Bryan Hunt, says amendments to the anti-money laundering legislation the coalition government is preparing to table in the National Assembly will make Guyana compliant with international requirements. 

The legislation – the Anti-Money Laundering Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFATF) (Amendment) Bill – was among several matters Hunt discussed with Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General (AG), Basil Williams, during a courtesy call by Hunt on Friday morning. 

The amendment bill, in its current form, contains amendments which the Donald Ramotar administration had disapproved of.

Friday though, Hunt said “what I can say is that the bill that the government is currently tabling has been reviewed by a number of international bodies” and is “fully consistent with the recommendations that have been laid out by both the Caribbean Action Task Force (CFATF) and the Global Financial Action Task Force (FATF).”

He went further to say that “if the bill were to be passed in its current form Guyana would then be fully compliant with the recommendations that have been put forward.”

Hunt’s pronouncement is very significant because ministers under the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration, including former Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall, and former Finance Minister, Ashni Sigh, had lamented amendments A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) had insisted should form part of the amendment legislation. 

In fact, both Singh and Nandlall had said that if the amendment bill was passed by the National Assembly with the amendments put forward by APNU it would make Guyana –non-compliant with CFATF recommendations. 

Neither men could be reached for their response to this development but former Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Juan Edghill,did offer his reaction. 

“That would be an interesting development since as far as we are aware the additional amendment that were being proposed by the APNU having had discussion with the technical people would not have passed the test of the international standard to ensure that we were in compliance,” Edghill explained.

He also said “I would find it interesting that the American envoy would be the authority to deem what is complaint or what is not compliant,” he also said. 

Today Williams said that the bill the current government plans to table includes the various amendment it had proposed as the Opposition, but that additional provisions were added after incorporating recommendations from the American Regional Review Group (ARRG). 

“It is the bill, it is our bill that we had in the special select committee, also, we incorporated some of the recommendations from the ARRG and the bill is ready to go,” Williams said Friday. The AG could not say exactly when the amendment bill will be tabled but assured that it would be passed before the September deadline. 

Noting that there are but a few months before the deadline, Hunt said “it’s going to be very important that the legislation is passed by the September deadline for submission to the Financial Action Task Force before its meeting in October.” He nevertheless expressed confidence that “the government has the ability to meet that deadline.

The amendment bill was first tabled in 2013 and was sent to a Select Committee on the insistence of the opposition parties, particularly A Partnership for National Unity. However, the committee was brought to an end by its Chairman, former PPPC Member of Parliament (MP) Gail Teixeira, in the absence of opposition members, and before their amendments were added to the bill. 

The bill was later brought back to the National Assembly with the agreement of all members of the house, but under the condition that it return to a Select Committee. The bill was still at the committee level when former president, Donald Ramotar, prorogued Parliament last October.