CFATF “favourably” reviews Guyana’s anti-financial crimes regime, but recommends ‘unified’ law enforcement

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 September 2023, 9:25 by Denis Chabrol

The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) has identified several areas that Guyana needs to tighten up as part of the global fight against money laundering and fighting terrorism, even as that regional organisation is satisfied with steps that have been taken so far to bring the country into legal compliance.

While Guyana was using formal and informal mechanisms such as Guyana has demonstrated the ability to use formal and informal mechanisms for international cooperation, particularly through its regional mechanisms such as the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for the Caribbean (ARIN-CARIB)-a network of law enforcement and judicial practitioners in the field of asset tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation- and the Regional Security System (RSS), the Attorney General’s Chambers said Guyana’s Home Affairs Ministry needed more support.

“With regard to international cooperation, the team found that there was a need for increased resources for the Treaty Office Ministry of Home Affairs to effectively carry out its functions,” the Attorney General’s Chambers said CFATF provided a favourable preliminary review at the end of its two-week on-site assessment on Friday, 15th September 2023 of Guyana’s compliance with the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations and Methodology.

Within six weeks of the completion of this onsite visit, a preliminary Mutual Evaluation report will be sent for Guyana’s review and input. Upon that review, and the conclusion those engagements, a final evaluation report will be concluded and submitted to the plenary.

After the assessment of government ministries, law enforcement agencies, state agencies, financial institutions, as well as private sector and professional organisations, the AG Chambers said CFATF reported cited the need for a united effort to fight those financial crimes. “There is also a need for a unified approach in tackling money laundering by the various law enforcement agencies,” the AG Chambers said.

The CFATF mission credited Guyana with investigating money laundering and associated serious offence cases in line with the country’s risk assessment but identified the reason for very few convictions. “The delay in the administration of cases may have contributed to the current low conviction rate for money laundering,” the statement said.

Shortcomings noted in the initial findings, according to the AG Chambers, include the need for Attorneys-at-Law and Accountants to fully understand their AML/CFT obligations, which is particularly important now that the Guyana Compliance Commission law has been passed.

In terms of targeted financial sanctions for terrorism financing and proliferation financing, the AG Chambers said while the team noted that the recent 2023 amendments have cured some of the technical deficiencies, “due to the recent passage of the laws there may be a need to revise internal procedures in the implementation of such.”

Mission Leader, Ms. Avelon Perry, and her team presented a summary of the initial findings to the Hon. Attorney General, Mohabir Anil Nandlall and the Anti-money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism/Proliferation Financing NCC.

In giving a broad overview of the outcome of the assessment, the AG Chambers said, “from all indications, Guyana as a jurisdiction, acquitted itself favourably and received much plaudit during the exercise.”

“The initial high-level findings found that Guyana has good coordination for the identification and mitigation of money laundering/terrorist financing risks through the NCC (National Coordination Committee). It also acknowledged the risk assessments Guyana has concluded, including the 2021 National Risk Assessment, and its wide dissemination among stakeholders,” the AG Chambers added.

The support of these actions through the National Policy and Strategy were also examined and found to be acceptable due to the completion of a number of policy items, such as amendments to key AML/CFT related legislation, the legislative creation of the Guyana Compliance Commission and the Real Estate Agents’ Authority, and the codification of the Special Branch Anti-Terrorism Task Force.

“With regard to supervisory authorities, the initial findings found that most of these authorities demonstrated a risk-based approach, as well as the use of preventative measures. The team also noted the support that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) plays in providing guidance for supervisory authorities,” the agency said.

The AG Chambers said the Assessment Team reminded Guyana that these findings may be changed upon further review of information submitted, which will be further assessed but no new measures after 15th September 2023 will be considered.

The Assessment Team reportedly informed the NCC that the final discussions with regard to the 4th Round Mutual Evaluation of Guyana is due to be concluded in May/June 2024 at the CFATF Plenary, which will be held in Trinidad and Tobago.