GEORGETOWN: The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is seeking an early resolution to the issues surrounding the implementation of recommendations to address deficiencies in the anti-money laundering regime of Guyana.
Last month, the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) announced that it had blacklisted Guyana after Georgetown failed to approve legislation to combat money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).
A statement posted on the CFATF website, noted that in November 2011, it had brought to the attention of members, including Guyana, that there were “significant strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT regime”.
CFATF said that in the effort to encourage the “expeditious rectification of the identified strategic deficiencies”, it had developed with Guyana an Action Plan with identified target dates to address the strategic deficiencies that exist to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
“As a result of not meeting the agreed timelines in its Action Plan, the CFATF issued a public statement in May 2013 recommending that Guyana take steps to ensure that it addressed its AML/CFT deficiencies.
“Guyana has made efforts to address its deficiencies, however, it has not taken sufficient steps towards improving its AML/CFT compliance regime by failing to approve and implement required legislative reforms.”
A statement issued by the CARICOM Bureau following its special meeting in Trinidad said that CARICOM was “deeply concerned about the impact that any adverse action” by the CFATF could have on “the Guyanese economy, and by extension the CARICOM region as a whole, particularly in the areas of trade and financial services”.
The statement said that the 15-member regional grouping had taken note of the CFATF position and had also “taken note of the efforts made by the Government of Guyana to implement the said recommendations, including by tabling in the National Assembly a Bill to amend the legislative framework, which Bill has since been rejected by the National Assembly, given the Parliamentary and political configuration that obtains in Guyana”.
CARICOM warned that any action that reduces the ease or increases the cost of processing international financial or trade transactions will adversely affect trade and financial flows in the region, retard the regional integration enterprise and reverse the gains made by Guyana and the region.
“CARICOM notes that this could also directly and severely, hinder the functioning of the CARICOM Secretariat which is based in Guyana.
“Mindful that this action could result in hardship for the people of Guyana and having regard to the extenuating circumstances that obtain in Guyana particularly as it relates to the Government securing legislative approval, and the deleterious consequences that are likely to arise from adverse action against Guyana, CARICOM hopes that this matter could be resolved at the earliest opportunity.”
President Donald Ramotar has accused the opposition groups – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC) – which controls a one-seat majority in the 65-member National Assembly for Guyana being blacklisted.
Ramotar said although he has not read the full CFATF statement, he was disappointed with the position taken by the opposition even though they were fully cognizant of the implications.
Government officials said that, as a result of being blacklisted, Guyana stands to face impediments with remittances from money transfer agencies and securing fire, life and mortgage insurance services and with the transfer of money from local to external banks.
In addition, the aviation and business sectors that depend on the flow of goods and services from overseas could also face challenges while government workers overseas and scholarship students who depend on salaries and regular stipends are likely to face delays, the officials said.
Earlier this month, the opposition legislators withheld their support for the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill despite having agreed six months ago for the legislation to go before a special select committee.
Guyana had been given a November 18 deadline by the CFATF to make amendments to the existing legislation which was non-compliant with the sweeping reforms taking place regionally and internationally to fight money laundering and terrorism.
APNU member and a former finance minister, Carl Greenidge, said the coalition, which includes the People’s National Congress Reform (OPNCR), wanted the bill to be recommitted to the special select committee to undergo more scrutiny.