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PPP raps Gov’t in open letter to CFATF Conference

Failures of the APNU+AFC government to fulfill its obligations under the AML/CFT regime were exposed in an open letter from the PPP/C to the ongoing Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Conference at the Marriott Hotel.
The Party, whose members currently serve in the parliamentary opposition, recapped how it was the APNU+AFC that held the country at ransom and jeopardized its financial relations with international firms when its members refused to support several amendments brought by the previous government to the AML/CFT Bill.

The PPP/C noted too that the government has failed to remove the sanctions which were imposed upon the country as a consequence of their actions. The Party also rapped the coalition for politicizing units which were meant to fight financial and organised crime under the AML/CFT regime. The Parliamentary Opposition cautioned the attendees of the Conference against believing whatever the Attorney General Basil Williams has to report on the country’s progress in this regard.

BELOW IS THE FULL LETTER FROM THE PPP/C SENT TO THE CFATF CONFERENCE:

Dear Delegates,
The People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) welcomes you to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. We hope that your deliberations will be successful and we encourage you to enjoy our country’s warm hospitality.

As the Parliamentary Opposition, we feel compelled to draw to your attention that the Government of Guyana continues to lag behind in implementing several outstanding recommendations, which our nation is obliged to do as part of its international financial obligations. As a result of this incompetence and neglect, our financial and banking sectors continue to be visited with a repertoire of sanctions and hardships, which continue to make it very difficult for persons conducting certain categories of financial transactions in the country. This is the reality despite the Attorney General’s repeated public misrepresentation that Guyana has discharged all the requisite obligations under the regional AML/CFT regime.

The truth is that it is under the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Administration that anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism laws were introduced in Guyana, firstly in 2001, and then again in 2009, with the enactment of our current Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act.

It is common knowledge, fresh in the memory of most, that during the Tenth Parliament of Guyana, the APNU/AFC (now the Government), used their one seat majority in the National Assembly to vote down two AML/CFT Amendment Bills, one in 2012, and one in 2014, which were intended to incorporate into the principal Act, a host of recommendations of CFATF. They did so after hijacking these Bills and keeping them in a Special Select Committee, unnecessarily, for several months, holding the then Government to ransom by demanding a multiplicity of political concessions. In the end, they still voted down the Bills, causing Guyana to be subjected to a regime of sanctions and to be reviewed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as recommended by CFATF.

All that this Government has done over the past two years, was to simply enact the very two Bills, which they voted down while they were in the Opposition and which exposed our financial sector to sanctions as well as the loss of invaluable business relations in several countries across the globe, especially, with international corresponding banks. Significantly, they have abysmally failed to have these sanctions removed and restore the invaluable relationships lost.

In the meanwhile, they are guilty of a number of transgressions, which have exposed Guyana’s financial sector and indeed, the entire nation, to greater international harm, for example:

1. they have failed to implement aspects of their own amendments to the AML/CFT Act, for example, the failure to staff a top-heavy and unnecessary bureaucratic AML/CFT Authority;

2. they have compromised and undermined the autonomy and independence of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), by making it subject and responsible to the AML/CFT Authority;

3. they have contaminated the entire AML/CFT structure by enacting laws, which authorize politically exposed persons – Members of Parliament, to appoint the AML/CFT Authority, the FIU Director, Deputy Director and other important functionaries in the FIU;

4. they have bastardized the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), established by the PPP/C Administration as the investigative arm of the FIU, by financing that Unit through the Ministry of the Presidency and converting it into an Agency, which is being used to witch-hunt and persecute political opponents and public officers who worked with the previous Administration, rather than investigate organised crimes, such as drug trafficking, money-laundering and offences of that type, which it was established to do;

5. in these prosecutions, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the independent constitutional body authorized to conduct prosecution, is sidelined and these politically tainted charges filed by SOCU, are prosecuted by a band of Special Prosecutors paid out of the budget of the Ministry of Legal Affairs and these prosecutors, who are handpicked by the Attorney General, are closely aligned with the Government, or are relatives of Ministers of the Government, or are lawyers who have taken over the law practices of several Ministers in the Government, including, the Attorney General;

6. some of these cases include failure by members of the Board of Directors of a Public Corporation to enter transactions in a ledger, though not a dollar is reportedly missing and a litany of similarly trivial criminal offences.

Significantly, not a single money-laundering or drug trafficking charge of substance has been instituted, though while in Opposition, this Government regularly described Guyana as a “Narco-State”. At the same time, legitimate business entities and persons are being harassed by SOCU Officers, who turn up at business premises, as well as residences, at all hours of the night to conduct searches. Currently, the entire Board of Directors of one of Guyana’s largest and most reputable commercial banks have been hauled before the courts by SOCU, for failure to supply information in relation to transactions outside of the statutory period for which the bank is required to keep such information.

Additionally, the Central Bank, under the guise of combatting money-laundering, is regularly being used as an instrument to coerce and dictate to legitimate cambio-dealers the rate at which they should trade foreign currency, contrary to and in violation of existing laws governing these entities.

In short, rather than combat organised crimes, the AML/CFT legal apparatus is being used by the Government to harass, intimidate and persecute legitimate businesses, the Political Opposition and law abiding citizens of this country, while turning a blind eye to rampant financial crimes and corrupt practices being committed every day, more especially, in the governmental and public sectors at very high levels.

All for your information and guidance.

The People’s Progressive Party/ Civic
13th November 2017

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