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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Gambia to amend money laundering shortcomings or risk blacklisting

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The 2013 annual report of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), released on Monday showed that The Gambia has not addressed a number of the strategic deficiencies in its Anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) system. 

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GIABA, an arm of Ecowas mandated to fight money laundering and terrorism financing in the sub-region, said 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 UNSC Resolutions 1267 and 1373, and lack of ratification of various instruments on counterterrorism. 

Imminent drastic actions

At the GIABA November 2013 plenary, The Gambia was called upon to demonstrate greater commitment to the implementation of its AML/CFT measures. 

The country was directed to address its AML/CFT strategic deficiencies among others failing which a public statement will be published on the country. 

Also, if the deficiencies are not addressed urgently, GIABA said The Gambia will soon be blacklisted for not making sufficient progress to improve its AML/CFT system. 

 “The consequences of this action on the country’s economy will be enormous,” the report stated, though it does not specify the repercussion.

In the report, GIABA said these serious measures have been taken against The Gambia because of the high risk associated with the country’s low compliance with international standards to tackle money laundering and terrorism financing.

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

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

Weak enforcement 

In 2013, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of The Gambia received 20 Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs), huge financial transactions that are suspected of involving illicit cash.  Of the 20 STRs 16 are linked to money laundering. Out of this number, 10 cases were forwarded to the law enforcement agencies for investigation. In one of the cases involving suspected money laundering-related drug trafficking worth US$500,000, investigations showed that the funds were genuine. 

In another case involving illegal gold mining and smuggling worth US$400,000, the Dutch government sought mutual legal assistance to recover illicit funds in a commercial bank in The Gambia. 

Consequently, the FIU and the Financial Supervision Department of the Central Bank of The Gambia conducted a joint prudential visit to the bank. As reported by the country, the mutual assistance process will be completed soon to determine and detail financial trails that could be traced to several banks.

However, the status of the other investigations is not known, and there has been neither prosecution nor conviction with regard to the matter. 

As a result, GIABA has installed an AML/CFT analytical software and hardware in The Gambia’s FIU. This was to enable the country to effectively process STRs and CTRs (cash transaction reports) for further investigation and prosecution by competent authorities.

The anti-money laundering institution has raised concern in its report about the low level of reporting and the lack of prosecution and conviction of money laundering and terrorism financing cases. 

 “The main obstacles to implementation of AML/CFT measures in the country are weak law enforcement and the low capacity of regulatory authorities,” it lamented.

 

Training needs

GIABA said The Gambia expressed its technical assistance needs to include capacity buildings for the FIU and other stakeholders like the law enforcement, the judiciary, legislative, regulatory bodies, financial institutions, civil society and media. These trainings couple with sustained intensive awareness raising for the public will further enable the Gambian stakeholders to wage a collaborative and substantial fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.

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