Cracking Down on Dirty Money: The Global Stress on More Stringent AML Laws

May 8, 2023

There has been a recent increase in global pressure where international organizations and governments have now drafted 2 main bills for consultation on tightening the AML (Anti-Money Laundering) laws. Amidst the 2023 oil boom turmoil, a huge amount of money laundering has been an ongoing issue. It is a visibly felt requirement in making the AML law stricter than before.

It is evident that the international AML legal framework has recognized the risks, especially in Guyana Georgetown. Given the scenario of the present government, the current proposed legal framework cannot be used to control NGOs.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall agreed to the notion that the AML laws need to be improved and that the robust recommendations of CFATF (Caribbean Financial Action Task Force) and the FATF. He has also highlighted that Guyana’s Anti-Money Laundering laws will be evaluated in September 2023 by the CFATF. It is to be noted that this will be the fourth evaluation of the AML Laws of Guyana.

According to the Memorandum, the AML and CFT Bill 2023’s amendment aims to ensure the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is fully compliant with the requirements of the Egmont Group’s membership.

Key Points of the Amendment

  • Sections 46 & 55 allocate a greater time period for the confiscation of criminal property as the period of questioning is extended up to twenty years.
  • Section 66 empowers the authorities to suspect and enforce laws on any asset that is posed as property or is suspected to be earned via criminal money. But the question stays how the agencies will execute these powers. It is also known that a major hotel in Guyana is being suspected of drug trafficking and finances related to it. Yet no action has been taken against it.
  • The word currency is replaced and updated and now includes virtual, digital, and crypto assets and currencies.
  • Section 29 empowers the Justice of the Peace through search warrants to enable the hot pursuit and hot tip situations. This allows swift actions and prevents persons from hiding/disposing of their assets or crime instruments quickly.
  • Section 37 states that applications for seizure can be made before a High Court judge or a magistrate. Sub-sections 37A and 37B include the cash seizure more efficiently. Moreover, the Detention period is extended from 72 hours to 7 days.
  • Section 39 empowers courts to issue necessary orders to make restraint orders more effective. Also, it empowers law enforcement officers who can now seize properties for the prevention of the removal from Guyana or concealment or destruction privately.
  • New Section 109A in the bill recognizes Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) as a primary body within the jurisdiction of the Guyana Police Force that addresses matters of Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Proliferation Financing.

The companion bill known as Guyana Compliance Commission Bill is mostly the same except it is now enacted to target NGOs as well.

Through the companion bill, NGOs being part of the AML framework tempted the present government to misuse the provisions. Evidently, there were attacks on Guyana Human Rights Association, Transparency Institute Guyana Inc, and Amerindian Peoples Association.

Brief Overview of the Companion Bill

  • Now, the Compliance Commission is bound to conduct risk assessments periodically of the NGOs in Guyana.
  • Any Non-profit organization registered under the Friendly Societies Act, Companies Act, or through any Deed, shall now refer the NPO to the Commission for registration.
  • No person can operate an NGO or NPO in Guyana until and unless it is registered under the said Act.
  • Anyone breaching Guideline 6 will be considered an offender and will be liable to a penalty as per section 23 (2) of the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) Act.
  • The application for registration of any NPO shall contain the listed documentation in a complete and orderly form. (see the source)
  • The commission will conduct risk profiling of the registered entity under the guidelines for the definition outlined and the size of the NPO.
  • Once the NPO fulfills the requirements and meets all the set criteria by the Commission, the NPO shall be referred to the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) for registration for Terrorist Financing guidelines.
  • FIU shall provide training and guidelines for suspicious transactions, terrorist funding, proliferation financing, and other obligations to the NPO.
  • The commission is responsible for ensuring that the NPOs are implementing the mentioned measures against terrorism funding in the bill.

Overall, the strictness in the 2 bills can be clearly seen and considered as a move to combat money laundering and terrorism financing in Guyana. However, concerns are raised, and still seek answers in the practical enforcement of the bills and how much they are practically & legally effective. Furthermore, Guyana’s public and business sector needs to stay updated on international AML laws so that any discrepancies in their local AML laws must be reported and addressed properly.

Source: Stabroek News

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