Anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terroism (Amendment) Bill 2013 – Bill no. 22/20134440 19 Dec, 2013
ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING AND COUNTERING THE FINANCING OF TERROISM (AMENDMENT) BILL 2013 – BILL NO. 22/2013 – Dec 19, 2013
Ms. Teixeira: I have listened to Mr. Greenidge with great interest. As you know, I think the best gift that we could give to our country for Christmas and New Year is to pass this Bill. The Hon. Member made three basic arguments. One, that he believes that there is inappropriate emphasis on legislation, which he thinks is absurd. The second issue is that the consequences and the impact are overrated and over exaggerated. The third one has to do with the PSCC and its functioning and its rushing. With this issue, maybe, some of our friends on the other side are not listening to people; they are not listening to organisations; they are not listening to the banks and insurance companies and what is going on this place right now. Since this Bill was defeated on the 7th of November this year there have been meetings with stakeholders, the Government, Opposition and civil society. There have been meetings between the Government and the Opposition. If the Opposition Members do not know who their leader is meeting with, it is not my problem. The issue is that there are great concern and the impact so far, having missed the deadline in May, having missed the deadline in August and missed again in November …If the Opposition does not believe us, and the Members of the Opposition do not believe us, I will suggest that they go and talk to their bankers. I assume that most of the speakers, most of the Members of Parliament, have a bank account and therefore the banks and the banker and the manager of their bank will explain to them because what… [Ms. Kissoon: It is petty cash.] It does not matter if it is petty cash or not, the volume is of no consequence. That is the point you are missing. The point you are missing is not to do with large amount of foreign transactions in and out of Guyana. It is ordinary people who are pensioners overseas, who have bank accounts overseas, come home every six months here and who deposit small amounts or, transfer small amounts here, and have been told by the banks overseas that their bank account will be closed where they are because they have given an address of Guyana. If you have not smelled the roses, talk to your bankers. Your bankers are talking.
The Bankers’ Association of Guyana… [Interruption] Mr. Speaker, I noticed that you have protected Mr. Greenidge. I expect no less, Sir.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Greenidge endured more than what you have endured now.
Ms. Teixeira: Was it just now?
Mr. Speaker: Yes. I will know when the point is reached I will step in.
Ms. Teixeira: Well Mr. Speaker, I hate to, at this hour challenge you or disagree with you because I do not like to do that to you, but everyone sat pretty quietly here for Mr. Greenidge. I suggest to the Members of the Opposition side if they do not believe us it is to go and talk to their bankers, go and talk to the Bankers’ Association about what is happening to individual, ordinary people in this country, and overseas, and also companies and people doing foreign transactions in and out of Guyana.
I am very serious about what I said just now, I am very serious, I am not joking and I am not trying to make a mountain out of a mould hill.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, it is after 10 o’ clock there are six more speakers to go, we need to get through this debate tonight. Could we allow the Member to speak please?
Ms. Teixeira: The issue, the impact of what is happening, started not in November; it started after we missed the first deadline in May. The CFATF public statement, actions taken since May, 2013 plenary, is dated November, 2013, Free Port, Bahamas and it asked countries to report on what they had done in relation to the advisory in May, that Guyana was deficient in its actions and was posing a threat to countries. Here is a list of the countries, the actions that each country took: Angola, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Canadians in particular
“On 1st of July, 2013 the office of the Supreme Financial Institutions issued a notice to draw attention to the CFATF call on Belize, Guyana and Dominica. Federally regulated financial institutions are expected to take in accounts they identify deficiencies when transacting business emanating from, destined to or connected to these countries.”
This is all posted on their website.
“On the 5th of July the Canadian Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Financial Transaction and Report Analysis (FINTRAC), issued an advisory reporting entities that the CFATF has determined that Belize and Guyana are out of compliance with the action plans to address strategic deficiencies. Jamaica put out information to their people, St. Kitts.
Trinidad and Tobago on the 30th May put a statement by the Central Bank of Trinidad uprising all of its licensees and registrants at a CFATF public statement via a circular on the 7th of June. The circular letter listed the jurisdictions that have been identified with strategic deficiencies and encourage all regulated entities to apply, enhance scrutiny when transacting business with entities in those territories.”
It goes on to talk on that issue.
Turks and Caicos, acting under the United Kingdom (UK) council, put out a sanction in relation to Guyana and Belize. That was an action taken post May, 2013 when we missed that deadline.
There was a blacklist warning from business publisher. On the 3rd of December the Global News Matters, which produces the fortnightly “Market Dynamic Caribbean”, reported this:
“That this week’s edition of the news reports that CFATF have stated Guyana’s continuous ability to pass laws on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism. The task force also cited Belize.
This is why we have been following this development closely as possible as it poses continuous risk to the commercial banking sectors of the two countries and in this interconnected economy there could be repercussion of the other parts of the region.”
Market Dynamic Caribbean also reports that the Caribbean also spends heavily…”
It also then reports that this organisation deals with 350 regional sources per week and covers more than 30 countries in the Caribbean, including Dutch, French, Spanish and English speaking Caribbean. That was on the 3rd of December. There has been other reaction since.
I think Mr. Greenidge said something which had to do with apocalyptic and to create fear on our people. The worst thing I would want to do is that. People have a right to know that as a result of this Parliament we have caused these things; that our inability in this House to pass a Bill… [Mr. Nandlall: Not ours, theirs.] Well, it is in totality, but it is obviously theirs. I stand corrected.
“CFATF assesses report on Guyana, October, 2013.” The early part of the assessor’s report gives a report on Guyana compliance with the number of the non-legislative recommendations.
Mr. Speaker: Which report is that?
Ms. Teixeira: This is “CFATF assesses report on Guyana, October, 2013.” These are reports in which it referred to recommendations made in the action plan. However, this is what it states:
“Based on the review of the recent update, the action plan submitted by Guyana compliance with the core and key recommendations still remains minimal due to the heavy reliance on reform needed to address many of the deficiencies. Although further steps have been taken to address the elements outlined in the mutually evaluation report, that do not require legislative amendment, Guyana’s failure to comply with the decision taken by the plenary on November, 2012, to ensure substantial progress, and to report by May, 2013 plenary. Since that time Guyana has made efforts to address the outstanding deficiencies that do not required legislative amendment while waiting for the parliamentary process to run its course. While these efforts are commendable, a proper assessment of whether Guyana will be able to meet plenary November deadline cannot be determined in the absence of the necessary legislation been enacted and there is nowhere, at this time, to determine whether this takes place prior to the November plenary or at the latest by the 30th of November, as specified by the Guyanese authority.”
Members, this is a conclusion of CFATF.
“Members must consider therefore whether any additional counter measures should be taken against Guyana for the non compliance with the CFATF directive if the November deadline is not met.”
Then, of course, there is what Minister and Attorney General read to us, which was the CFATF public statement of the 30th November, 2013. Again it states, on Guyana:
“Guyana has made efforts to address it deficiencies however, it has not taken sufficient steps towards improving its Anti-Money Laundering and Counting the Financing of Terrorism (AMLCFT) compliance regime by failing to improve and implementing legislating reforms. Guyana must therefore pass the relevant legislation and implement all outstanding issues.”
It then goes on:
“Members are therefore called upon to consider implementing counter measures to protect the financial systems from the ongoing money laundering terrorist financing risk emanating from Guyana.”
That is the 20th of November, 2013. Members can go on the website. This is not my fictions; they can go on CFATF website go. Since we are in a modern world they can access all of that. They do not have to believe me.
The issue is this that when I listened to the Hon. Member he seemed to be caught in a catch-22. The prevention of Money Laundering Act…
Mr. Speaker: Sorry Ms. Teixeira, I am making arrangement to limit the refreshments outside, seeing that it is having an effect on the behaviour on the inside, but it is not with you.
Ms. Teixeira: With me!
Mr. Speaker: No.
Ms. Teixeira: I do not drink, Sir. It is just that when you said it, it sounds as if was…
Mr. Speaker: I just want to make a public announcement so that there is a last call.
Ms. Teixeira: Okay, there might be a rush.
The issue of this Bill, the prevention of the Money Laundering Act of 1997 or 1998 - I cannot remember which one it was - was created in an era of when the world, Latin America and the Caribbean were dealing with money laundering. The 2009 Bill, which was brought here and sent to a Special Select Committee for the first time, had to add on the issue of financing terrorism because of September, 2001. The whole issue of terrorist financing was added on. I would swear to that another two years there will be something else added to do with cyber issues. By 2014, it will be dealing with all the cyber issues to do with money laundering, but there will be other ways in which that will be devised. This is a never-ending issue, in terms of the laws being amended to keep up with the times. This is not unusual in this area or in any other area. Laws are not meant to be written in granite and stay stocked in time and time warp.
The issue is that the Hon. Member can talk about inappropriate emphasis. This Bill, such as the one in 2007, was driven by international demands, that Guyana gets itself in line with international development and international financing, banking, commercial and insurances systems and we, did in 2007 to 2009, bring it here. We brought regulations; we brought also a moratorium to order by the Minister to give the banks a moratorium to allow them to get themselves into order with putting the 2009 Bill into effect. All of us, who are sitting in this room, who, I assume, have bank accounts, would have received a letter from our bank telling us to come in, in 2011, with our passport and National Identification Card and some proof of address. That is part of the Act. Under money laundering, persons would have been able to take their proof of address - Guyana Power and Light (GPL) bill, water bill, whatever a person may have - to show who they and they are living at a given address. That was part of the 2009 Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act of 2009. We now have to go further and therefore we have no…
The issues of implementations on law making, I would like to say if all the laws, which were created in the world, are only judged on implementation, a lot of things would not have happened. Laws have to be put into effect and there are systems. They have to be connections.
One of the issues, the other Act, which is a partner to this… There are some other Act that partner this, the Money Transfer Licences Act, which was passed in 2009, the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, because it requires countries to share information, to share intelligence. Prior to that, the Member asked a question, but I remember that there was an investigation going on, and I was the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Felix knows - he is not even here, he is probably at the bar -…The issue is that when we were investigating an issue and we asked the bank, at that end, to share the information with us of where money was leaving and going from Guyana we were told that it is banking laws and its laws did not allow it. It is that countries have a similar wavelength, similar system to allow for that.
I could tell, from my experience, that we were not been given information by other banks when we were doing our own tracking. That was because of all the countries, in this hemisphere, were not on the same footing. Even some of the countries, such as the United States of America, which are supposed to have similar laws with our country, it is to go and ask, as the Government, or try to track certain things, and hear what the banks will tell. One will suddenly hear about their laws, so that the offhand comment by the Hon. Member maybe that the person is not being exposed to Government, not being exposed to some of the challenges of intelligence gathering, information gathering, particular in a country where connectivity is a problem, where the digitalisation of records, and so on.
That is not the issue. The problem, what Mr. Greenidge said, is a chicken and egg story because CFATF made it very clear that our country does not have some of the procedural framework in place, so it pointed out... Mr. Greenidge was listening to me, but he does not usually. That would be that we were missing, in a number of cases, the procedural requirements which had to be put into law. It needed certain provisions in the law to allow for certain things to be done which were absent in the 2009 Bill. Therefore CFATF put recommendations on Guyana as it was done in other countries, all the countries which have had problems - Trinidad, Belize, Dominica, all having had trouble. There is a combination of human resources, financial resources, technical resources, challenges of communicating of a tiny country communicating with a big countries which has far more sophisticated systems and abilities than we do, but nevertheless if there is not the legal framework then our country cannot even move in that direction. It has got to be able to have a legal framework.
Obviously, if the Hon. Member had read the report and the Bill, which was tabled in this House, in which there were probably about 58 to 60 amendments that were made to the original Bill, put to this House on the 22nd of April, 2013, he would have seen and we put it based on Mr. Basil Williams request that we put what were the CFATF recommendations and what we complied with so people could see. This requires a whole range of things and Mr. Greenidge was there in the whole discussion, to do with the limit of how much money can be taken out of Guyana and the instruments. Did that mean only the $10,000 cheque money? We discovered that for CFATF it was money, jewellry, travellers cheques, personal cheques, money orders, anything totalling $10,000. We did not realise that when we were dealing with it in Committee. It was until we saw that.
It is sad that the Hon. Member, who sat in that Committee, attended a lot of the meetings, not all… As from April to October this version of the Bill was finished in Committee; at the end of July, it was shared out, the 30th or 31st of July. The Members, on the other side, adjourned it to October because they have a majority on the Committee. They are the majority, it is not us. Therefore they had August, September, October to look at the Bill. We met back in October. When we started back, they confessed in the meeting that they had not read it as yet and they were not prepared to discuss it because they had not read it as yet. We had to come back, again, and then there was a postponement. Then, at the last meeting, which we had, we went through again the same amendments Sir, of the end of July, 2013, and decided that we have a deadline as a country to face and if we do not put our best effort to try and meet that deadline then so be it. Do not let us be found faulting because not one amendment has come from the Opposition in this whole process.
Mr. Greenidge may have his view of the Committee on what must not be rushed. I would say Sir, we did not rush at all. In fact, my guilt or my concern is, as the Chairperson,…
Mr. Greenidge: Mr. Greenidge’s report, as I indicated to this House before, is borne out by the Minutes kept by Ms. Teixeira herself. It is not that I conjured up a view of what occurred. The meeting was clear as to how it should proceed and what Ms. Teixeira did was contrary to that. It is not a Greenidge position, it was the majority.
Ms. Teixeira: I am afraid I am not a minute taker in a committee. I am a Member of Parliament and I was the Chairperson of the Committee. If you have a problem with the Minutes then you come to the meeting and you correct them, but I am not a minute taker. I am not a minute taker in a parliamentary committee. I might be a minute taker at another level, but not in a parliamentary committee. Do not belittle me and put me in that position.
The three planks of the first Opposition speaker on this Bill… There were three planks that he spoke on. The inappropriate emphasis on legislation, Hon. Member Mr. Greenidge, his argument on it was flawed. It is proved by all the reports of CFATF - all available on website, Sir, not Teixeira inventions, not Teixeira Minutes, by the way - that the legislative instruments were what we had to do at this point. The point, which he made, that the Committee been rushed, well, history will absolve us or history will find us guilty. I leave it to history, Sir, but in my conscious. I know that from the end of July this was ready and when it came here on the 7th of November it was rejected. We met again in October and nobody was interested in it. My conscious is clear, as the Chairperson.
I saw in the newspaper a high ranking official, on the Opposition, is claiming that the Government and the Chief Whip in particular was responsible for his Bill being defeated. Well I leave it to history to judge me. I do not answer that.
The issue of this Bill, the Hon. Member made a point which I should response to. He talked about civil rights, and so on. He may be right and he has my support on the issue of the draconian and erosion of human rights and issues of security in the United States of America and England and a number of places based under the rubric of antiterrorism. You have my vote on that, Mr. Greenidge, but on this Bill, which is dealing…
When the United Kingdom (UK) Government has secret trials, arrests people and hold them for four years without trials and have secret trials with no lawyers and no defence, when people are put under house arrest for four years and cannot work, Mr. Greenidge, you have my 101% support to fight on those issues. However, on this Bill, whilst the Bill is onerous, it is difficult, it is a pain in the you know what, it puts tremendous stress on a country of our size, abilities and resources. However, the greatest area of human rights issue is the privacy issue, the issue of disclosures and privacy. In the Bill, the information has to be produced and generated. It means that one’s privacy, right to privacy or private information, has basically been eroded. We are seeing that this is a big issue which has to do with the right of privacy is a big issue at the international level. When everybody “Google” and everybody can get information to Governments to get into conversations with foreign presidents and presidents and prime ministers of other countries, and where Snowden and other people have exposed what is going on, yes, you are right on those violations of privacy and the right to privacy, but we are living in a cyber world where it seems to be the trend that everything has to come out. Our country is faced with a challenge.
This is a Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Bill to make us in compliance with international requirements. I am certain that there will be more amendments to this Bill and certainly in the Committee those amendments could have been tabled. They were not. If we are going back to Committee now, we are, as the Attorney General said, flexible, but I hope we are not going to go on an excursion that has no limit and no time because we do have another time limit.
The Hon. Prime Minister, in his statement to the House on 21st November, 2013, which was circulated to everybody sitting here, pointed out that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) can, in February, when it meets at the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG), review Guyana. It does not have to wait for another CFATF review. It can, on its own, decide. Therefore, I am appealing to this House that in going back to select committee, we must commit to try to get this Bill back in this House before the third or fourth week in January, 2014.
I know we have been accused of exaggerating but we have been feeling the effects since May, 2013. The effects got stronger from August, 2013. We have been feeling the effects getting worse since 20th November, 2013. I am not exaggerating. I encourage Mr. Granger, Members of the Alliance For Change (AFC) and all Members of Parliament (MPs) to invite the bankers to meet with them privately. I do not care. Hear the story of what is going on and be concerned about what it is going to do to the economy, to the people of our country and to the way in which we operate as a country.
The CFATF recommendations that were given to us, we have complied, as far as I know, with those. The new Bill or a Bill similar to the one which was brought here on 7th November and was defeated has some new sections. Under the Companies Act, there is a new subsection 2, which gives further clarification as required by CFATF after the review of 18th November.
Whether it is a new committee with the same people or new people is of little consequence, but I would hope that the enormous amount of work that went into the Bill does not fall by the wayside. The new committee should use it and we should try all possibilities to return here with the Bill, hopefully with its approval amongst ourselves, before the end of January, 2014. Even if we were to pass this Bill tonight, Sir, it is extraordinarily difficult to reverse what has already taken place with the advisories out on Guyana and it is not automatic.
Therefore, as I said, we are willing to flex, we are willing to go to Committee, but we cannot come to this House and not emphasise how serious it is, and these are not, as the Hon. Member said, fancy and empty words. These are not fancy and empty words. I am being sincere. We are in serious problems as a country and our people will suffer, our economy will suffer and everyone will suffer. We have said that before but we are saying it again. We always hope that the Opposition Members, being rational people and being reasonable people, will give credence to these issues and act in good faith. That is all we are asking of them. We are not asking them to vote with us.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank you for allowing me to speak. Thank you very much. [Applause]
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