Private sector urges swift passage of AML/CFT Bill

Captain Gerry Gouveia

(www.guyanatimesgy.com) Former Private Sector Commission (PSC) and Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Presidents, Captain Gerry Gouveia and Clinton Urling say a dark future awaits Guyana if the Anti-Money Laundering and the Countering of Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill (AMLCFT) is not passed by the final deadline set by the regional body.

The two private sector representatives made these comments following a meeting with the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) on Saturday morning at the Commission’s headquarters. Gouveia related that members of the private sector had gone into the meeting with apprehensions, but left the meeting feeling even more apprehensive than ever.

Final deadline

Clinton Urling

The Captain disclosed that whatever was discussed has left them wondering what will be the future of the country, since it affects not just the country but the entire Caribbean region. He noted that if the country is to meet the final deadline of May 29, the Bill will have to be passed as it is.

“I was always scared, but I came out of that meeting even more scared today. I am very concerned about poor people and the remittances they would receive from abroad; the bureaucracy, the increased living expenses that will result. I am concerned about our economy and what will happen. This legislation really needs to be passed,” Gouveia expressed.

The businessman related that if the May 29 deadline is to be met, the legislation will have to be passed as it is since there is no time for a new one to be drafted, reviewed and passed.

“I really don’t think that there is any margin for changing the legislation at this point in time. Any time you change even one word of that legislation now, we are going to break that deadline again because it would mean that CFATF would have to review it again and such,” Gouveia related.

Urling, the former GCCI President, expressed similar sentiments, noting that the private sector will face a serious crisis and setbacks if the legislation is not passed by the last and final deadline given to the country.

“Our policy makers should then do whatever it takes to ensure that this amendment Bill is passed,” Urling said.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Members of Parliament (MPs) on Saturday told media operatives that Guyana can be formally and permanently blacklisted by CFATF if the Bill is not passed by the last and final deadline of May 29, given by the regional watchdog.

This was disclosed to the media by MPs Basil Williams and Carl Greenidge, among others at a press conference on Saturday at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, following a meeting with the CFATF’s Chairperson Allison Maynard-Gibson. Maynard-Gibson and CFATF’s Executive Director Calvin Wilson were on a two-day visit to the country to emphasise the need for the passage of the AMLCFT Bill.

Williams disclosed that the Opposition was informed by CFATF of the “draconian” circumstances which Guyana will face if the AMLCFT (Amendment) Bill of 2013 is not passed. “They have indicated the perils of the non-passage of the Bill to us. The picture they painted seemed to be very draconian and the future of Guyana is one that is dark,” Williams disclosed.

APNU Co-Chairman, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, another member of the coalition, noted that while the CFATF was in Guyana to assist in the passage, much cannot be achieved since the team can only give advice on technical matters.

“The Chairman was careful to maintain that they could only offer advice on technical matters. The fact of the matter is that we are confronted in Guyana with more than technical matters. It is a political matter… and she is not familiar with Guyana’s political environment. A political solution is needed,” Dr Roopnaraine related.

Asked whether the Opposition will now give in to the Government’s demands to have the amendment passed in its original state to avoid permanent blacklisting, Greenidge and colleague MP Ronald Bulkan stated that the Opposition remains firm on its position, contending that it is now left up to the Government to decide whether it will accept the changes made by the Opposition. Guyana has thus far failed to meet any of the CFATF deadlines due to the non-passage of AMLCFT Bill.