The Inquirer (Monrovia)

West Africa: Two-Day Anti-Money Laundering W'shop Opens

The Acting Coordinator of Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism, Gabriel W. Bellepea said the legislators will have to pass the money laundering bill in February or else Liberia will be taken to the next phrase.

Speaking at the opening of a two days' workshop on ECOWAS Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism Inter-Ministerial Committee that is being held at Central Bank training center; Mr. Bellepea said that Liberia is the only Country that has not constituted the AML/CFT law and it has made the Country vulnerable.

According to him, the committee has been successful in drafting the bill and that they are trying to bring the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy onboard to enable them know what is going on in the mining sector. He said more institutions need to be put in place and that the Ministries of Finance, Justice, Foreign Affairs and the Central Bank are competent institutions and they have given them their full support.

Mr. Bellepea said ECOWAS has developed a guideline for all member states and should come together and protect the economic sector. He said Liberia has to report every year on the progress that is being made to fight money laundering and terrorist financing.

He stressed that criminals make great efforts to move illegally obtained money and other assets in order to convert, conceal or disguise the true nature and source of these funds. He further stressed that the availability of working capital is also fundamental for both criminals and terrorists to sustain their network.

According to Mr. Bellepea, the economic efforts are more wide-ranging, as the activity can have a negative effect on transparency, good governance and accountability of public and private institutions. He said money laundering often deprives countries of infrastructure and social programs which might otherwise be funded from tax revenue.

"Legitimate businesses can find it difficult to compete with money laundering from businesses that can afford to sell products cheaply because their primary purpose is not to make profit. The harms caused by organized crime and terrorism will continue to be present as long as criminals and terrorists are able to exploit systems to launder criminal proceeds and to support terrorist groups and activity," he said.

Also speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr. James F. Kollie, Chairman AML/ CFT Regime and Deputy Minister for Revenue at the Ministry of Finance said it is important to criminalize money laundering. He said the bill should not just be passed into law but that it should be implemented also.

He said when the bill is passed into law the committee should make sure that the law is functional, if certain things are not put into place; investors will not come into the country to invest.

In response to mounting concern over money laundering, the financial Action Task Force on money laundering (FATF) was established by the G-7 summit that was held in Paris in 1989 and in October 2001, expanded its mandate to incorporate efforts to combat terrorist financing, in addition to money laundering.

FATF monitors countries' progress in implementing the FATF recommendations review money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and counter measures. It promotes the adoption and implementation of the FATF recommendations globally.

The Inter-Governmental Action Group against money laundering in West Africa (GIABA) is the institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is responsible for facilitating the adoption and implementation of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Financing of terrorism (CFT) in West Africa.

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