US State Department Update on Guyana’s AMLCFT Status – March 2017 report
The US State Department report published in March 2017 highlights the progress made by Guyana with respect to its AML/CFT regime. Guyana, it noted, has satisfied the criteria set by the FATF/CFATF for countries, which allowed it to exit all follow-up processes and sanctions it was subjected to by those bodies.
Our exiting the follow up process was based on the high-level commitment given by His Excellency President David Arthur Granger to the President to FATF, that his Government will work with the FATF and CFATF to implement the recommendations. Additionally, the President appointed the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Hon. Basil Williams S.C., M.P as prime contact for Guyana.
The report recognised that Guyana remedied key and core deficiencies previously highlighted by the FATF and CFATF and has established the requisite legal, regulatory and institutional framework required by both bodies, which culminated in us achieving the level of compliance necessary to exit the third round of Mutual Evaluation and consequentially entered the fourth-round mutual evaluation process.
Some of the areas of progress were the enactment and/or amendments of several pieces of legislation by the Attorney General Chambers and Ministry of Legal Affairs (with effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions) relating to confiscation and provisional measures; financial institution secrecy; customer due diligence; financial transparency and beneficial ownership; reporting of suspicious transactions; targeted financial sanctions related to terrorism and terrorist financing; establishment of an AML/CFT supervisory regime and an independent and functioning Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
It is also noted that Guyana implemented comprehensive regulations in most sectors of the economy relating to Customer Due Diligence (CDD), enhanced due diligence for several high-risk groups including Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and the submission of Suspicious Transaction and other reports to the FIU. Laws have also been established to allow for the exchange of intelligence with international law enforcement and other stakeholders in the fight against ML and TF. Guyana has also been aggressively pursuing its pending application to become a member of the Egmont Group of international FIUs, which will enhance information sharing and cooperation arrangements with FIUs worldwide.
Noteworthy also, is that since this report, Guyana has changed gear and has now intensified its AML/CFT focus towards achieving effectiveness as required in the fourth-round mutual evaluation process. This is geared at ensuring the desired outcomes of the enacted/amended legislations are achieved. In this regard, the Government has ensured that all the agencies directly and indirectly involved in the fight against ML and TF are engaged, working together and cooperating. This includes Office of the Attorney General, FIU, Ministry of Finance, the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit, the Guyana Police Force/ Serious Organized Crimes Unit (SOCU), Bank of Guyana, Guyana Revenue Authority and other supervisory authorities (SAs).
The report acknowledged limited human and technical resources as being a challenge. Progress however continues to be made, as training and other support is being obtained via our international partners and governments. The FIU was provided with additional staffing including a Director and Deputy Director late in 2016, which has enhanced the functional capacity of the unit. Its Financial Analysts and other employees have also been exposed to developmental training locally and internationally.
SOCU has also benefitted with additional staffing and training, but is still below needs based on the volume of cases being handled. They were nevertheless successful in completing several seizures of cash and jewellery under the AML/CFT Act.
The FIU has sought to improve public awareness of AML/CFT laws, regulations and procedures via the publishing of guidelines (6 published in 2016/ 2017). It has also completed workshops with all categories of reporting entities (REs) particularly Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) to ensure they understand and meet their reporting and other obligations under the AML/CFT Act.
Additionally, an AML/CFT Compliance Team was recently established by the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Basil Williams S.C., M.P. who is Guyana’s prime contact and will seek to continue to press towards further effectiveness of the country’s AML/CFT regime. One of the Compliance Team’s main objectives is the promotion of collaboration and coordination of AML/CFT actions among the key stakeholders of the country’s AML/CFT Regime. The composition of the team includes heads/senior representatives from the Attorney General’s Chambers and Ministry of Legal Affairs, SOCU, FIU, Bank of Guyana, and some other Supervisory Authorities. Most of the entities of this team, for the very first time, were part of the country’s delegation to the XLV CFATF Plenary held in Trinidad and Tobago in May 2017. Guyana has also actively participated and contributed to the work of the CFATF, by providing technical experts to conduct the mutual evaluations of sister jurisdictions. These are all efforts to facilitate the development of local human resources, to ensure more effective management of Guyana’s AML/CFT agenda.
In April 2017, Guyana completed its first National ML and TF Risk Assessment and Risk Based Action Plan. The final report was officially presented to the Hon. Minister of Finance on June 7, 2017 by the FIU which was the coordinating agency. The Action Plan will guide the next steps in the country’s efforts towards further strengthening Guyana’s AML/CFT regime.
Guyana exists in a geographic location that makes it vulnerable to ML and TF. The country remains a transit route for the illicit drug trade; the large cash based nature of our economy results in informal networks of cash couriers moving currency to and from the diaspora on behalf of criminals. Public corruption and illegal natural resource extraction and tax evasion are all noted as areas of vulnerability for Guyana. The country has however been demonstrating its commitment to fighting crime and drug trafficking in particular, with several significant drug seizures in recent months.
The country continues to work hard and commit significant resources towards the fight against ML and TF, and the protection of its financial sector from being infiltrated by the proceeds of crime. Guyana remains very optimistic of continued progress in the fight against ML and TF locally. The country is confident it is on the right track towards meeting international standards and expectations in this area.