WITH significant progress already made with respect to addressing the deficiencies within the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime here, Guyana could see itself being removed from the “Light Grey List” by February, 2017, according to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Director (ag) Alicia Williams.Williams made this disclosure during a consultative meeting held by the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams on the draft Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2016. The Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Cecil Dhurjon; Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel Charles Fung-A-Fat; State Counsel Joann Bond; President of the Guyana Bar Association, Christopher Ram; Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Norman McLean; Executive Member of the Private Sector Commission, Captain Gerry Gouveia, and Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum were among those present during the consultative forum on Wednesday at the Legal Affairs Ministry.
Captain Gouveia, from the inception, expressed concerns over reports that Guyana is now being featured on a “Dark Grey List” by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) but the Attorney General explained that the country had been on the “Dark Grey List” long before the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government took office.
The country, however, as acknowledged by FATF, has made significant progress in addressing the deficiencies in the AML/CFT regime. Last on the list to address is Recommendation Six: Targeted Financial Sanctions Related to Terrorism and Terrorist Financing.
The FIU Director (ag) said addressing the outstanding recommendation is critical for Guyana to be removed from the “Light Grey List” it is currently featured on. In less than a year, the country has moved from being on a “Dark Grey List” to a “Light Grey List,” but she made it clear that unless Guyana addresses all of the issues outlined in an Action Plan, to which it has committed, the country will be stuck on the list. It was explained that if the AML/CFT 2016 Bill is passed in the National Assembly, presented to the Plenary in June, and gains the approval of the international financial watchdogs, the Attorney General could request for Guyana to start the process of “exiting.”
According to her, if all goes well, Guyana could be off the list by February, 2017, but a FATF team would first have to visit the country to conduct an assessment before approval is fully granted.
The draft Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2016, is in keeping with the outstanding recommendation made by FATF, which among other things, seeks to ensure that the assets and funds of terrorists or terrorist organisations are immediately frozen by the court.
Under Recommendation Six: Targeted Financial Sanctions Related to Terrorism and Terrorist Financing, FATF instructed Guyana to “provide for a legal framework and mechanism to freeze terrorist asset without delay in accordance with United Nations Security Council (UNSCR) 1267 and its successor resolutions. It was also recommended under this section that clear procedures be established with regard to freezing of assets and ongoing prohibitions under UNSCR 1267 and 1373, including delisting requests, guidance to financial institutions, and gaining access to frozen funds for necessary expenses.
As such, the draft AML/CFT Bill seeks to amend key sections of the Principal Act such as Section 68A which addresses UNSCR 1267 and 1373. After painstakingly trying to correctly word, Section 68A 2 and 3, the parties involved arrived at the conclusion that changes to the drafted bill must be done in a holistic manner and not in a piecemeal manner, as such, the Attorney General said it is important for consultations to be continuously held until the objective is met.
The Attorney General said given the increase in terrorists’ related activities, there will be a greater demand for countries such as Guyana to be in compliance with standards set out by the FATF and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). Williams also told the forum that before he became the Minister of Legal Affairs, Guyana was in a “dark-grey” list and with the new government’s commitment to comply with all the requirements of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Guyana has moved onto a “light-grey” list.
PSC Chairman, Mclean, who was very outspoken during the forum, underscored the importance of the bill being in total compliance with the requirements laid out by FATF. “The issue is, we have to comply and we must comply…for the private sector, this is very critical for us,” he constantly reminded those present, a sentiment which was endorsed by the Attorney General and the majority present. Currently, Guyana has an Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act in place, along with other connected legislation governing supervisory bodies, financial institutions, law enforcement and foreign affairs. The National Assembly in 2015 had also passed the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill, the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill No. 1 and 2, and the AML/CFT Regulations.