Attorney General warns accountants of penalties if caught in Money Laundering

─ referred to them as ‘Gatekeepers of the financial system’

─ sensitisation workshop hosted for accountants and auditors on AML/CFT laws

by Delicia Haynes

DPI, Guyana, Saturday, May 18, 2019

Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams SC., earlier today highlighted penalties that Accountants and Auditors could face if they refuse to report or are to found to be involved in Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing activities.

The Attorney General delivered brief remarks at a session hosted for sensitising the professionals on their roles and responsibility as Guyana moves swiftly towards Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) compliance.

“The consequences that come with being involved in money laundering whether willingly or not are severe with penalties such as the loss of license to practice to significant fines as much as $40M and even a prison sentence.”

He stressed the critical role of reporting, which lies within the accounting profession.

The Attorney General, who is also the Chairman for the National Coordinating Committee on AML/CFT, said that the accountancy sector is one set up without a supervisory body but just a regulatory agency which is the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana (ICAG). The need for a supervisor, according to AG Williams, represents a gap in the AML/CFT – PF (Proliferated Financing) regime locally.

This, he said, if not remedied or looked into, will pose a possible challenge to combatting money laundering and terrorism financing.

“You are regarded as gatekeepers of financial systems as it can be used for purposes of facilitating or assisting illicit activities of criminals including accounting and auditing malpractices… Additionally, money launderers utilise the expertise of accountants to facilitate money laundering through various mechanisms such as transferring funds across several countries, setting up shell companies and structuring complicated transactions.”

Member of the ICAG committee, Aaron Fraser was also in attendance and delivered brief remarks on behalf of the institute. He told the gathering of Guyana’s continued economic growth and advised on how the profession can be safeguarded from Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing activities.

“This particular workshop is timely in that it allows us as accountants to share some of the experiences that we would have had in the past, our interpretation of some of these things. At the end of the day, it will enable us to understand what is before us, read through the lines and to really get to the bottom of what is going on.”

Accountants and Auditors gathered at the Cara Lodge on Saturday, May 18, 2019, to learn more of how their profession can be compliant with the reporting obligations to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

This workshop follows a similar one held on May 17 where Attorneys-at-Law were briefly engaged, and their role towards Guyana’s compliance of AML/CFT laws was highlighted.

Images: Ameer Sattaur.