In order to allow investigators more time to prepare their cases in complex matters, the Guyana Government is now looking to get rid of the statute of limitations as it relates to the prosecution of anti-money laundering offences.
To this end, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, presented the amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill to the House on Friday. It was then read for the first time by the Clerk of the National Assembly.
According to the provisions as outlined in the Amendment Bill presented by the Minister Williams, prior to the proposed changes, “the prosecutor could only institute proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court within six months of the offence being committed.”
It was pointed out in the explanatory memorandum accompanying the legislative changes that “with the amendments the offence is now a hybrid one and that he time limit provided for summary offences do not apply to indictable offences.”
As a result, as it relates to the instituting proceedings against suspected money launderers, “the prosecutor would have a longer time as no limitation for the indictable offences of money laundering is provided for by the statute.”
The explanatory memorandum further states, accordingly, “this amendment is important because more time would be given to the relevant personnel to conduct their investigations and prepare their case especially if the matter is a complex one.”
The move comes just weeks after the Administration received praises for its successful exiting of the Financial Action Task Force’s monitoring regime.
Only recently too, Government recommitted its support to ensure the preservation of the AML/CFT regime.
The view was expressed by Finance Minister Winston Jordan, who in April last addressed participants at the opening of a three-day Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) National Risk Assessment confab.
“I am very cognisant of the catastrophic macroeconomic effects that money laundering and financing of terrorism can have on our country, if left unnoticed and unattended,” he stated.
At the time he told participants, “And so, it is to safeguard against these eventualities that the Government of the Guyana has been making stringent efforts to strengthen the country’s AML/CFT regime, through appropriate enactments and amendments to the relevant laws,” he added.
The Minister told participants that sharp prudential standards have caused international banking institutions to avoid reputational risks and penalties by reducing or severing their relationships with jurisdictions that are perceived to be high risk, on account of inadequate AML/CFT regimes.
He explained that many developing countries, including Guyana, were adversely affected by this de-risking practice. Some local financial institutions either have completely lost or have reduced relationships with their correspondent banks.
The National Assembly in 2015 had passed the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill, the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill No 1 and 2, and the AML/CFT Regulations.
Currently, a draft Amendment Bill to the AML/CFT Act is being prepared to ensure that the assets and funds of terrorists or terrorist organisations are immediately frozen by the court.