The People’s Progressive Party said government is heading downhill with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill, adding that its most recent decision to ramrod three new stages of the bill in Parliament, will do more harm than good.
The Party’s Chief Whip Gail Teixeira said government is still advancing with these stages, without taking into consideration the most important element that would get the nod from the Financial Action Task Force, and that is the appointment of a director of the Financial Intelligence Unit.
According to the order paper, Government, through Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams is expected to present another Anti-Money Laundering Bill, when the National Assembly meets for its 36th sitting on May 4.
But Teixeira said the architecture of the AML/CFT is structured on a Financial Intelligence Unit: “The role of the FIU is implementer and regulator in relation to the implementation of regulation on these issues… there is no FIU director or deputy director and the new architecture that the new Government brought in and passed in Parliament, leaves it to the parliamentary Committee of Appointment to appoint.”
Teixeira said there has been no appointment of any member of the constitutional body. According to her, government needs to appoint a director, deputy director, accountant and lawyer along with ten members to sit on the Anti-Money Laundering Authority. She said none of the issues have been completed. If fact, they have only now begun to be addressed.
She said the rush to take the Bill through with the amendments, is unacceptable, as the main item of the legislation is absent.
So whether it is checking with the banks to see if they are compliant, the reporting and investigative aspects cannot be done without the FIU becoming fully constituted.
She said her party does not buy the argument that the rush to have the Bill go through Parliament is necessary, since, whether the bills are passed or not, before FATF, the country will still remain noncompliant because of the absence of an FIU body.
“The rule of FATF, CFATF and the international banking system is that the FIU and the director of the FIU are in all of these issues. The government seems to be unaware of what needs to be done”, she said.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently urged government to “promptly” address the deficiencies in its AML/CFT framework to ensure full compliance with FATF recommendations.
In December, Attorney General Basil Williams stated that there were still a number of recommendations the country needed to fulfil before it could become fully compliant with FATF and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) requirements.
Currently, government is in the process of employing a director and deputy director for the FIU.
Teixeira, who is member of a parliamentary committee in charge of overseeing this aspect, disclosed that a sizeable number of applications for the position have been received.
Thereafter she said, a sub-committee will be established to develop a score system to act as a guideline when reviewing the applications to determine which will appear on the shortlist for interviews.
Meanwhile, more amendments to the AML/CFT Bill are slated to be presented at the upcoming sitting of the National Assembly on May 4; however, Teixeira lamented that Government intends once again, to ramrod all three stages during that one sitting.
The PPP/C Chief Whip explained that she got a call from the Government Chief Whip Amna Ally who informed her of Government’s intention to present the amendments at the upcoming sitting.
“She asked if we will support the amendments to the AML/CFT Amendment Bill with all three stages at one sitting on May 4… and our answer was a resounding ‘no’,” Teixeira stated.
She explained that the amendments are large and complex, and therefore, it needs to be reviewed extensively, especially considering that the PPP/C will be entering the parliamentary chambers with no knowledge whatsoever on what to expect.
Teixeira further explained that these pieces of legislations need to be reviewed and discussed comprehensively to ensure it is consistent with each other and that there is no contradiction.