Understanding the AML/CFT framework, Enforcement of the US sanctions

Dear Editor,
Let me establish at the outset that I am no legal expert, but I have had a working knowledge and experience with the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism law and regulations in Guyana. This was during >10 years of working experience in the banking sector, including at the Bank of Guyana, where I participated in the drafting of AML/CFT and other financial sector regulations. During that time, I was exposed to a series of AML/CFT trainings. More recently, I was part of a multi-stakeholder panel, which included experts from the United Nations, to conduct a country review for one of the Latin American countries on the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption. This is the vantage point from within which the hereunder viewpoint is framed.
Last week, members of the media questioned the President, His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, as to what basis was the Cambio License revoked from Mohamed’s Enterprise, which followed almost immediately after the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of Treasury had announced the imposition of sanctions on that entity. To this end, sections of the media et.al, propagated the view, albeit implicitly, that the Government should not have moved so swiftly to revoke the Cambio, and other licenses held by that entity, since the U.S authorities have not yet released the requisite information to the Government to conduct its investigation.
Be that as it may, it is important to note that crimes involving AML/CFT—and actions imposed thereof are not restricted to only domestic laws and investigations. This is in keeping with the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention, thus adopted in the domestic and international AML/CFT legal framework.
Within this respect, Part VI of Guyana’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act (2009) (hereinafter referred to “AML/CFT Act”), deals with “International Cooperation (see sections 76 – 78 of the AML/CFT Act), which conforms with Articles 43-50 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
Notably, Section 78 of the AML/CFT Act establishes that—
(1) “A document purporting to be issued by or on behalf of the Government of a country or territory and purporting to state the terms of a corresponding law in force in that country or territory shall be admitted in evidence, in proceedings under this Act, on its production by the prosecution without further proof, and such document shall be conclusive evidence that-
(a) it is issued by or on behalf of the government of that country or territory;
(b) the terms of such law are as stated in the document;
(c) any facts stated in the document to constitute an offence under such law do constitute such offence.
(2) “Corresponding law”,
(a) in relation to proceedings relating to drug trafficking has the meaning given in section 2 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control)Act 1988 and;
(b) in any other case, means a law that corresponds with a provision of Guyana law that creates a relevant offence.
Furthermore, within the AML/CFT legal framework, the failure by the local authorities to enforce the US sanctions domestically would have exposed the domestic financial sector to very serious threats—that could potentially cripple the financial sector and by extension the economy. For example, domestic banks have correspondent banking relationships with several U.S. banks. As such, if the Bank of Guyana had failed to act on those sanctions, the local banks would have been at risk of losing their correspondent banking relationships.
This, in turn, would have effectively cut off the economy from the international payment system, which means that importers would not have been able to pay for imported goods from abroad, and exporters would not have been able to receive payments for their exports.
Therefore, the Bank of Guyana acted within its powers towards immediately moving to revoke the Cambio License, inter alia, invoking due process pursuant to the AML/CFT Act and the Dealers in Foreign Currency (Licensing) Act 1989. More importantly, the effect of the sanctions, by way of enforcement domestically, is absolutely necessary in order to safeguard the domestic financial system.

Joel Bhagwandin