Friday, September 24, 2010

The Magnitude of Money Laundering in The Gambia Difficult to Determine – Report

As the Inter-governmental GroupAgainst Money Laundering in West Africa Reports
VOL:1 ISSN:4 “The laundering of illicit money is increasingly a major problem in The Gambia, but its magnitude or severity remains relatively difficult to determine,” the inter-governmental group against money laundering in West Africa has said, in its annual Report 2008.
The Report highlighted issues such as porous borders, weak controls, prevailing poverty, dominance of cash transactions, poor know your customer (KYC) compliance culture, massive inflows of tourists and anecdotal evidence of increasing drug-related and other criminal activities are all factors contributing to an increase in the money laundering risk in The Gambia.

Within its limited resources and capacity, the Report said The Gambia has passed various laws and regulations that are directly or indirectly relevant to anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing (AML/CFT) in the country. “These include the Money Laundering Act 2003; the Anti-Terrorism Act 2002; Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Decree 1994; the Drug Control Act 2003; and the Revised Regulations for the Operation of Foreign Exchange Bureaux 2005.”
However the 2008 Report argued that all these laws need to be updated and mordanised. Efforts to amend these laws have unfortunately not been successful until now, despite ongoing official collaboration with the West African inter-governmental group against money laundering (GIABA) to this end.
“Although an inter-agency committee has been set up and may have played an important role in the drafting of the 2003 Money Laundering Act and related legislations, it has remained an ad hoc, tentative body,” the West African group said.
In terms of implementing the provisions of the law, the committee has not truly played an effective coordinating and enforcement role, given the reported frequent movement of staff, lack off commitment by some members and the low priority accorded to money laundering control measures in an environment of severe constraints on capacity and resources.
However, it is pertinent to note the relevant agencies and their respective roles in the AML/CFT implementation in The Gambia. These include the Department of for Finance and Economic Affairs, the Central Bank, the Department of State for Interior and Justice and the National Drug Enforcement Agency.
According to the Report, the Department of State for the Interior has statutory coordinating and oversight responsibilities in the implementation of the AML/CFT laws, as the supervisory ministry for the police, immigration service and the national drug enforcement agency.
In April 2008, the Report said GIABA undertook a short assessment mission to Banjul in order to evaluate The Gambia’s readiness to establish its financial intelligence unit (FIU) and anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing (AML/CFT) Committee.
“It was found that much of the work had been accomplished and that several concerns were several concerned authorities were ready to push forward with the task,” it stated.
As a result of this mission, written guidelines for the establishments of FIU’s and of AML/CFT Committees were formulated and published by the West African body (GIABA), and were distributed to all countries in the region, for their information.
Notwithstanding, the report indicated that despite some progress with the designation of promises and appointment of members, the FIU and AML/CFT Committee are yet to be fully operational. “There has been little progress, despite official assurances that things would moving along. This is hard to comprehend and seems to be linked to a question of fundamental will,” the GIABA mission to The Gambia reports.
Perhaps the results of the Mutual Evaluation, in addition to some pressure being exerted by GIABA and by sister countries which are establishing their FIUs, will compel the country to finally comply with international standards and move forward in they called a critical area.
It stressed that, laws need to be revised, the FIU needs to become operational and the National Strategy needs to be formulated. “This remains a challenge for the coming year,” the Report concluded.

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