Private Sector has objections to APNU proposed AML amendments

[www.inewsguyana.com] –  President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Clinton Urling has identified the misgivings of the wider private sector to the three major amendments proposed by the Parliamentary Opposition to the  Anti – Money Laundering and Countering the financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act.

Speaking to iNews on Tuesday, Urling said members of the Chambers and the Private Sector Commission have been holding meetings over the past few days in relation to the amendments.

According to Urling, several private sector members are not in support of the amendment which seeks to give Police the power to seize cash of over $2M (US$10,000) and arrest persons if it is suspected that it is the proceeds of or the subject of money laundering.

The GCCI Head said that there are several grounds on which this particular amendment has been rejected. Firstly, because of the lack of trust and confidence private sector members have in the Police Force and other law enforcement agencies.

He reminded that currency is defined in the Act to include cash, jewelry and precious metals and stated that the integrity of the law enforcement agencies if granted such powers remains the subject of much questions.

Urling said the distrust comes from the fact that the amendment can lead to officers to abuse the authority while at the same time increasing the opportunities for corruption.

Urling in making his point, outlined scenarios where officers can seize a certain amount of currency and declare differently and where officers can accept bride from persons found with the currency above the stipulated limit.

Further, Urling says the amendments may also create significant inconvenience for business people who conduct legitimate business.

“People will now have to go before a Court to prove that the currency is legitimate which also means that they are incurring additional cost since they will have to acquire legal representation,” he said.

According to Urling, “Look at those gold miners who transport large quantities of gold on a daily basis, we cannot support this.”

If this amendment is instituted, Urling believes that it may also trample on the rights of citizens in other respects. He said there are alternative remedies, which he identified that can be implemented that are less draconian and will have the similar effect.

The main opposition – A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) had also proposed that the Finance Minister no longer have the power to appoint the director of Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and be placed in a committee of the National Assembly.

They further proposed the establishment of an authority comprising 10 persons nominated by the National Assembly after consulting with stakeholders.

In representing the views of other PS members in this regard, Urling said while members are not against the setting up of the authority, the power to appoint must remain with the Minister.

He pointed to a similar authority in Barbados where the members are selected by the Minister. He said that authority which is made up of not only politicians but private sector members functions well and posited that the model can be emulated here.

“This I believe will help to prevent infighting and stalemate.”

On a separate note, the GCCI Head said the Chamber has had meetings with the Government recently and intends to meet with the combined parliamentary opposition in coming days, not only over the amendments but also the passage of the amended Bill which currently sits in a Special Parliamentary Select Committee.