Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gambia urged to show greater commitment in fight against money laundering

…asked to address deficiencies to avoid blacklist 

Besides money laundering and terrorism-financing threats, there is still a high perception of public corruption in The Gambia, according to reports.
The Gambia has been called upon to demonstrate greater commitment to the implementation of its Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-financing Terrorism, AML/CFT, measures, a report by a West African agency that monitors and works to prevent the twin crimes has stated. 

The call was made at a November 2013 Plenary session of the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, GIABA.  

Progress in the implementation of AML/CFT measures in The Gambia has been slow, according to GIABA’s 2013 Annual Report published in August 2014. It stated that the country also lacks the capacity to monitor the full stretch of its borders – with regards to the fight against money laundering.

“The country was directed to address its AML/CFT ‘strategic deficiencies’ and submit a follow-up report in May 2014, failing which a public statement will be published on the country. 

“These serious measures have been taken by the Plenary because of the high risk associated with the country’s low compliance level,” the report revealed.

GIABA said The Gambia needs to mobilize all required resources, including political commitment at the highest level, in order to mitigate the money laundering and terrorism financing risks it faces. 

“It is also in the interest of the country to address these deficiencies urgently in order to avoid being blacklisted as a country not making sufficient progress to improve its AML/CFT system,” GIABA warned. “The consequences of this action on the country’s economy will be enormous.”

The report indicated that the main obstacles to implementation of AML/CFT measures in the West African country are “weak law enforcement” and the “low capacity” of regulatory authorities.

 “The low level of reporting and the lack of prosecution and conviction in the face of real ML/TF threats are matters of concern,” the report stated.

In April 2014, GIABA director general Adama Coulibaly, advised The Gambia to “quickly finalise” its national AML/CFT strategy.

The strategy is to serve as a driving force for deepening Gambia’s AML/CFT system, government officials said.

Coulibaly said the relevant action plans need to be developed as quickly as possible to enable the full implementation of the strategy. 

“It is equally important for The Gambia to adequately monitor and evaluate mechanisms to ensure full accountability,” added Coulibaly.

Mama Fatima Singhateh, Minister of Justice, said the predicate crimes [offences that lead to] of money laundering have been criminalised in The Gambia’s criminal code and other legislations.

In 2012, The Gambia enacted a new AML/CFT law, reactivated the Inter-Ministerial Committee and appointed a Director for its financial intelligence unit, the FIU. GIABA said these measures have helped to address some of the deficiencies in the country’s AML/CFT regime.

However, it added that the seventh follow-up report of the country, submitted in November 2013, shows that it has not addressed a number of the “strategic deficiencies” in its AML/CFT system. 

The most crucial of these deficiencies are the non-criminalisation of the full range of predicate offences, absence of effective laws and procedures for implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373, and lack of ratification of various instruments on counter-terrorism. 

In particular, the country has not ratified the key UN International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

Besides money laundering and terrorism-financing threats, there is still a high perception of public corruption in The Gambia.

Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perception Index, CPI, gave the country a score of 28% with a global ranking of 127 out of 175 countries. The Gambia’s CPI ranking represents a decline from its 105 position out of 174 countries and a score of 34% in 2012.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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