‘The rule of law must be fortified to fight financial crimes’ -President tells CFATF workshop for Judges and Prosecutors
Georgetown, Guyana – (May 9, 2018) President David Granger, on May 3, declared open a workshop for Judges and Prosecutors from the Caribbean at the Pegasus Hotel, where he said that the rule of law must be strengthened and safeguarded to ensure that the fight against money-laundering and terrorist-financing is successful even as he noted that Guyana has made significant strides to boost and implement robust legislation, which can ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice.
The two-day workshop, held under the theme, “Anti- Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism, Countering Violent Extremism,” which is organised by the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), targets Judges and Magistrates from Commonwealth member states across the Caribbean. It seeks to establish mechanisms for Caribbean jurisdictions to strengthen measures for the continuous sharing of intelligence, information and best practices relating to financial crimes and to cooperate with each other in the investigation and interdiction of transnational crime and the enforcement of financial laws. It also aims to build the capacity of institutions, which police these systems and prosecute financial crimes.
In his address to the gathering, which included Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Right Honourable Baroness Patricia Scotland, the Head of State said that the rule of law is society’s protection from financial and other crimes.
“The rule of law is society’s sword and shield against financial crimes. It is the bulwark, which protects citizens against despotism. It guarantees the principle of equality before the law, the promotion of law and order and respect for citizens’ rights and the predictable dispensation of justice through the recourse to independent and impartial institutions to settle disputes. Caribbean citizens, without the protection of the law, could become captive to slick organised crime. The criminal justice systems of small states must be safeguarded from the subversion of organised crime. The rule of law must be a shield, protecting our citizens and our institutions and a spear to combat money-laundering and terrorist-financing by inculcating norms which encourage compliance with the laws, increasing the likelihood of interdiction and prosecution of financial crimes and imposing penalties, which act as effective deterrents to such crimes,” he said.
Noting that many Caribbean states have become an attractive destination for financial pirates, privateers, money-launderers and tax-evaders, President Granger said that the Caribbean countries must be resourced and supported to protect their institutions against the threats of money-laundering and terrorist-financing. Robust legislation and sturdy institutions are the weapons in the war against financial crimes, he said.
In this regard, the Head of State said that Guyana, cognisant of this fact, over the past years, has embarked on the path of passing legislation to counter financial crimes. Among these are the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML-CFT) Bill, which allowed for the improvement of compliance with the standards of the CFATF. “Guyana has strengthened its institutions – such as the Bank of Guyana, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions – which have been empowered with the authority and autonomy and equipped with the technical resources and personnel to discharge their functions under its Anti-Money Laundering and the Countering Terrorism-Financing legislation,” he said.
Noting that small Caribbean states are limited not only in size but, also, in human resources, technology and capital and these constraints could impair the capability of law-enforcement agencies to combat transnational criminal cartels, the President sounded a call for intensified international collaboration, which he said, could improve communication, cooperation and capacity-building.
These sentiments were shared by the Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Scotland, who said that among the assets of the Commonwealth, is its ability to mobilise cooperation and to leverage resources and sharing of experience and expertise to address issues, which affect member states. A common fight for all 53-member states, she said, is the fight against money laundering, financing of terrorism, violent extremism and human trafficking.
“Our role is to assist member countries with the many technical issues, which affect their national security and ultimately have a bearing on the safety, wellbeing and prosperity of their citizens. We are encouraged by the commitment from all our leaders at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be bold in our ambition and what we can achieve. Heads recognised that the Commonwealth has always been a strong advocate of the causes of small states. The strength of the Commonwealth lies in the collaboration among its member countries. We all have the same problem so rather than working separately, we can work together. In our criminal justice work, we at the Commonwealth are committed to working with member countries and our partners to refine and continue to raise AMLCFT standards and I know we can do this if we work together,” she said.
The Secretary General said that the financial and other crimes deprive countries, particularly those still developing, of much needed financial resources. A concerted effort must therefore be undertaken to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and the networks dismantled.
“We have a duty to be vigilant guardians, protecting the safety and wellbeing of all of our people and ensuring that we have the capacity to safeguard our institutions in order to safeguard them from being exploited by criminal and terrorist purposes. To stem the supply that sustains terrorism, we have to ensure that we have the best and the most up to date legal and criminal justice tools available… We know the difference in the money our nations need to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the money we have is the amount, which is siphoned off by corruption and illicit practice so the more we can interdict this, the money likely our Governments will have the money they need for the roads, the schools, the health services. This is not a victimless crime and what we are doing is to help preserve the lifeblood of our countries,” she said.
Chairman of CFATF, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams, in his remarks, underscored the critical role judges and prosecutors play in consolidating stable and effective institutions of integrity, transparency and the rule of law, which he said, are all pillars of an effective Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism systems.
He explained that while similar global workshops have been conducted jointly between the FATF and FATF style regional bodies such as CFATF, this is the first of its kind to be held in the Region. He noted that while many Caribbean states have the requisite legal frameworks, the conviction rate for financial crimes are still low. The workshop, therefore, seeks to provide a platform for gathering and sharing experiences, challenges and best practices in investigation and prosecuting, money laundering and terrorist financing as well as depriving criminals of their proceeds.
“If the global AML/CFT efforts are to be effective, it is absolutely necessary that countries also obtain convictions and pressure ceasing and confiscating the proceeds of instrumentalities of crime for the benefit of state`s and of victims. Our focus for the next two days centers around issues related to investigative orders, the prosecution and management of money laundering cases, international cooperation, confiscation and restraint orders, conviction bases confiscation and terrorist financing. The sharing of experiences, good practices and identifying the practices amounts the expected audit would be critical for improving the effectiveness of the money laundering terrorist financing prosecutions and confiscating of criminal proceeds,” he said.
Participants are drawn from states such as Montserrat, Suriname, The Bahamas, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, among others.