May 05, 2016 Parliament
Georgetown, GINA, May 5, 2016
The National Assembly last evening passed the amended Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML-CFT) (Amendment) Bill No. 12 of 2016 after intense debate. The passage of the Bill has now paved the way for Guyana to apply to exit the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) process.
Defending the Bill prior to it debate in the National Assembly, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams stated that the Government inherited a situation of great reticence to fight against money launderers, and even a greater reluctance to counter the financing of terrorism.
“The PPP/C government had continually failed to remedy the many deficiencies in the action plans it had agreed to, with both the CFATF and FATF in or around 2011 and 2014 respectively,” the Attorney General said.
The House was advised that during this time, Guyana was featured on three of four CFATF Public Statements, all of which identified Guyana as a jurisdiction with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies that had not made enough progress in addressing the deficiencies, or had not complied with its action plan developed with the CFATF to address those shortcomings.
However, the Attorney General explained that despite this, Guyana has been making significant progress in addressing the action plan items; and as such, FATF, in all its subsequent publications regarding Guyana, commended the country for its efforts and encouraged it to continue to implement its action plan.
To exit the CFATF follow-up process, Guyana has to satisfy five core recommendations, the final of which is featured in this Bill. And with the third round of evaluation in process, the AG noted that it is important for Guyana to exit the process and be removed from the grey list now since the fourth round looms.
“This government will for the first time engage CFATF on the status of our compliance with the remedying of its deficiencies on the follow-up reports which the PPP/C failed to do,” the Attorney General stated.
Minister Williams argued that his Government has shown the political will to implement the recommendations in an effort to save the country after years of neglect.
The House was told that the Bill was the subject of several consultations held with relevant stakeholder agencies and bodies.
“Before such consultations, a copy of the draft Bill was sent to the stakeholders including the opposition spokesperson on Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, but Mr. Nandlall did not attend the consultations nor proferred any excuse to the AG Chambers,” Minister Williams told the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, the opposition has expressed concern that the Bill was being rushed through the House although, the deadline for Guyana was known earlier in the year.
Speaking to the issue, Opposition Chief Whip and former Presidential Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira moved a motion for the Bill to be sent to a special parliamentary select committee. This was not agreed to by the Government.
Teixeira expressed the view that the Government is rushing because Guyana is up for review later this month by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“But if Guyana was coming up for such a review then why did we not have a meeting in eight weeks? Aside from all the travelling that had to be done by Members of the House…there were 17 free days during our break that we could have met,” the Opposition Chief Whip noted.
Meanwhile, making his contributions to the debate, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall explained that the opposition has been elected to serve the people of Guyana in the National Assembly, and the business of the Parliament must be done in the Parliament.
Nandlall explained that is the reason, the opposition wanted the Bill to be sent to a select committee where it will be examined in detail, as the opposition has concerns on several amendments to the Bill
The AG refuted this and stressed that there is no need to take the Bill to the select committee, since only “complex bills” are examined there, and this bill is not a complex one.
The Bill was then placed in a committee stage and examined clause by clause. Following this, the AG requested that the Bill be read a third time and passed as printed. The Bill was then passed.
Concluding the debate on the Bill, leader of Government business in the House and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo stated that the passing of the amended Bill is critical since it entails the requirements that Guyana has to follow exit the FAFT process.
The Prime Minister expressed the view that with this Bill, “we can set our financial integrity above board and no more should our country be threatened by all those horrible happenings that we have been warned about.”
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