|Dr. Abdullahi Shehu, GIABA|
Friday, October 28, 2011
Gambia Host Anti- Money Laundering/ Counter Financing of Terroriem Workshop
The Director General of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa better known as GIABA, Dr. Abdullahi Shehu, has, in his remarked at the opening of the GIABA workshop in Banjul, repeatedly reminded the Gambian authorities of the country’s commitment to implement the recommendations in its Mutual Evaluation report, which was adopted in November 2008.
The anti-money laundering chief told the participants from GIABA Member States gathered in Banjul, that GIABA has supported the Gambia with the services of a legal consultant who reviewed the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation of the Gambia, and based on the report of the Consultant, a draft Bill was produced.
He also recalled that, with the support of GIABA, a stakeholders’ meeting was held in 2009 to discuss the constraints and challenges of implementing the recommendations in the mutual evaluation report and determine ways and means of overcoming such challenges.
Dr. Shehu while noting that some progress have been made in some areas, however, stressed that a lot more still need to be done, especially with regard to the presentation of the country’s draft Bill to the Parliament and fully establishing and equipping the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) with better office accommodation and skilled staff.
“Let me repeat, the authorities are reminded of their commitment and the need to address the identified deficiencies in the Gambian AML/CFT regime without further delay,” the anti-money laundering Chief stated at the regional workshop on AML/CFT requirements for Non-Bank Regulators and Supervisors, organised by his institution, and held at Coco Ocean Hotel.
Dr. Shehu also said in recognition of the challenges facing financial institutions in the region, especially non-banks in establishing effective AML/CFT compliance system, the GIABA Secretariat has developed an AML/CFT Compliance Manual for adaptation and adoption by non-banks.
Thus, the objectives of the three days of deliberations in The Gambia include to sensitize supervisors and regulators of Non-Bank financial institutions on AML/CFT; to also acquaint participants in promoting the implementation of AML/CFT Compliance culture required for efficient and sound financial system; and promote networking among operators in the region that will facilitate information sharing and dissemination on AML/CFT issues.
He told the participants that the implementation of robust AML/CFT regime requires concerted, coordinated, collaborative and cooperative efforts.
Director General Shehu also reminded them that, in response to the devastating effects of money laundering and related criminal activities on West African countries, the Authority of Heads of State of the ECOWAS established GIABA, as a specialized institution to, in short, ensure a full roll out and diligent implementation of acceptable international standards against money laundering and terrorist financing, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) 40+9 Recommendations.
He added that GIABA operates on the one hand as a specialized ECOWAS Institution, and on the other hand as an FATF-Style Regional Body (FSRB).
He is of a strong view that an effective AML/CFT regime is a deterrent to criminal activities in and of itself.
In that regard, the DG said the deployment of AML/CFT compliance system by financial institutions, supported by their executive managements, promotes public confidence in financial institutions, and hence their stability.
Also, an effective AML/CFT regime reduces the risk to financial institutions arising from fraud; thus, there is the need for financial institutions to constantly apply prudential internal controls that can guarantee their safety and soundness, as pointed out by the GIABA boss.
He also indicated that application of proper customer identification procedures, determination of beneficial ownership, proper record keeping and continuous capacity building of staff on AML/CFT measures provide specific due diligence for high risk businesses and jurisdictions while permitting effective monitoring of suspicious activities.
“As you may be aware, some financial institutions have collapsed as a result of money laundering activities associated with their operations.
“Therefore, in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, financial institutions become the first line of defense and are now under increasing pressure to demonstrate genuine commitment to implement AML/CFT measures,” the regional workshop audience heard from GIABA chief.
He cited the key aspect of the FATF Recommendations, which is on Regulation and supervision.
Recommendation 24 states “… Countries should ensure that designated non-financial businesses and professions are subject to effective systems for monitoring and ensuring their compliance with requirements to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
“This should be performed on a risk sensitive basis. This may be performed by a government authority or by an appropriate self-regulatory organization, provided that such an organization can ensure that its members comply with their obligations to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.”
And Dr.Shehu said compliance with these principles is therefore seen as evidence of a financial entity’s commitment to probity.