GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Guyana is once again positioned at a precipice with only one day to go before another deadline for the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill of 2013.
Despite being cautioned by the financial adviser of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), Roger Hernandez, that the opposition APNU’s proposed amendments expose Guyana to the peril of being non compliant, that party, as well as AFC, refuse to budge from their individual positions regarding this Bill, which was tabled in the National Assembly in March last year.
The APNU is insisting that its proposed amendments must stand as part of the Bill. These include: authorisation of police and customs officers to seize currency to the value of over $2 million if they suspect that the said currency is crime proceeds; appointment of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to be done by the National Assembly as opposed to the finance minister; and the establishment of a ten-member oversight body.
Hernandez said that, while CFATF does not get involved in country’s legislative process, it does have serious reservations about the proposed amendments as they may result in parts of the legislation becoming non-compliant.
“The concern that we have is that the amendment put forward may make those areas that were formerly compliant, non-compliant,” he said.
He also confirmed the position that the government side has been outlining, namely, that some of the amendments are outside of the remit of the recommendations initially made by the CFATF. The visiting official said that serious attention has to be paid to whether or not the proposed amendments can be effectively implemented, as well as how they may affect the entire system.
The business community and citizens in general have expressed concerns with these amendments as they run the risk of festering corruption in society. Hernandez said that serious attention has to be paid to whether or not the proposed amendments can be effectively implemented, as well as how they may affect the entire system.
The Bill in its current form as presented by the government is compliant with the recommendations that were made in relation to Guyana meeting the international AML/CFT standards.
After missing deadline after deadline since last year, Guyana was given another opportunity by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to pass the Bill and become compliant by February 28. The Parliament is scheduled to have its next sitting on Thursday.
The Bill has to be passed, enforced and submitted along with the report by that date to the CFATF. Failure to meet this deadline could see the CFATF, the regional body, recommending Guyana to the FATF, its parent body, for review by the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG).
Attorney general and minister of legal affairs, Anil Nandlall, explained that Guyana is not a country that exists in isolation, it has an obligation to ensure that it is compliant with international standards and treaties.
He said that if Guyana does not pass this Bill, the country will be exposed to a whole regime of sanctions which could jeopardise economic growth and development. He reminded too that Guyana is the only country in the western hemisphere that is still to pass this law.
Even if the Parliament passes the Bill before February 28, Guyana will have to demonstrate that it is effectively implementing the recommendations made by CFATF before it can be taken off the regional blacklist on which it was placed last year. This process can take as long as two years or longer.