Lindeners call for passage of AMLCFT Bill – at town hall meeting – not in favour of APNU proposal on seizure of currency

Georgetown, GINA, February 20, 2014

 

At the town hall meeting hosted by the government in Linden to sensitise and bring the people of the mining town up to speed with the status of the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AMLCFT) Bill, Linden residents were very clear that they want the bill to be passed.

“I am concerned with the bill, and I want the bill to be passed…I don’t expect anything different from them (opposition),” one resident stated at the event held at the Watooka Guest House on Wednesday evening. He was referring to the opposition’s stance  towards the bill.

Another resident lauded the initiative by the Government for seeing the need to hold such a meeting as it served its purpose of sensitising them on the intricacies of the bill.

Presidential Advisor on Governance Ms. Gail Teixeira interacting with a Linden resident after wrapping up the town hall meeting.

The residents were not in support of the opposition’s recent proposal to the bill, that is seeking to give Police and Custom Officers the power to stop and search persons, and if they are found with $2 Million worth of currency or more, that currency can be seized and the person arrested, if the police or Customs Officer has reasonable suspicion that it is the proceeds of a serious offence or the subject of money laundering. To this, residents say consideration should not be given since it will be contrary to their rights to move around freely with currency.

Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira and Minister within the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill were well received by the packed audience, despite efforts by some elements of the Linden community, to suggest that the meeting with the Cabinet members had been cancelled.

Presidential Advisor on Governance Ms. Gail Teixeira emphasising a point during her presentation during the town hall Meeting in Linden.

With the aim of sensitising and bringing the people of the mining town up to speed with the status of the Bill, Minister Edghill set the mood for the meeting.

During her detailed presentation to the eager audience, Teixeira first sought to highlight the urgent need for the passage of the bill in keeping with the requirement of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). She told the gathering that it was in their best interest that the billed is passed without any hindrance and delays since Guyana is currently at risk of being blacklisted. The Presidential Advisor went on to inform the gathering of what the bill entails for the ordinary man, as well as for business owners who have built their businesses from an honest living. On this note, she elaborated that the bill will provide for tracking of money being ‘washed’ to build legitimate businesses.

“Money from the narcotics trade was being used, washed, and sanitised and put into the legal system What this means is that someone who sells cocaine which is illegal and makes $10 M has to get it into the legal system…it means you have to get it into the economy by one way or the other”.

Minister in the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill speaking at the town hall meeting at the Watooka Guest House

With the passage of this Bill, Teixeira explained that the law would now allow the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to follow the money trail of money launderers.

Globally it is by these same methods as outlined in the Bill that several drug lords were captured and prosecuted, Teixeira highlighted.

“Globally, the United States and Colombia, they were able to seize, arrest, charge and convict some big drug lord, not by nabbing them with the cocaine, but through their paper trail of following where the money went, be it through banking, insurance, cambio and so on.”

Teixeira explained some of the implications the non-passage of this bill will bring for numerous of Guyana’s thriving export businesses, and urged the residents to speak out and implore of their leaders the importance of the speedy passage of this bill.

In addition, Minister within the Ministry of Finance Bishop Juan Edghill re-emphasised the need for the urgency in the getting this bill passed more so the importance of getting citizens involved in the process. The Minister noted that the visit to the mining town was not about scoring political points, but to get the ordinary citizens involved in nation building and decision-making.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has not recommended that Guyana be put to the attention of the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) for review, but Guyana has to file a report by February 28, 2014 to the CFATF for their review and report to plenary members in May 2014.

A section of the gathering at the Watooka Guest House, Linden for the first ever town hall meeting on the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AMLCFT) Bill .

This report will include Guyana’s plan of action to correct its deficiencies as part of the ongoing process.  Guyana is expected to attach to that report the conclusions on the AMLCFT Amendment Bill No. 22, 2013 which is before the Parliamentary Special Select Committee and a copy of the said enacted Bill to be analysed, correlated to the deficiencies to provide the report to Plenary in May, 2014.

Between February and May it is expected that there will be dialogue and discussions with CFATF with regards to the preparation of the report for CFATF plenary.

The passage of the bill has been in limbo for more than 10 months with no support given by the Opposition. It was only recently that they brought proposals for amendments, but these were not in respect to the bill, but the principal Act that was passed several years ago.

Having already missed several extended deadlines members of the Cabinet are currently holding town hall meetings in the different regions with the aim of sensitising citizens on the bill and its importance.  A second such meeting was held this evening in New Amsterdam while a third is scheduled for Bartica on Friday at the St. John the Baptist Primary RC School.

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