West Africa: President Koroma Boosts Campaign Against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing in West Africa

Freetown — His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has assured the Director General of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), Dr Abdullahi Shehu that Sierra Leone is fully committed to the goals and aspirations of the group as a specialized body of ECOWAS. He made this declaration during a courtesy call on him on Wednesday 23rd January at State House, by the GIABA delegation led by its indomitable Director General, Dr Abdullahi Shehu.

Responding to concerns raised by the GIABA delegation, President Koroma said that the Director General does not need six hours to convince him about setting up of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in Sierra Leone, like he did with the Guinean Finance Minister; owing to the fact that the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone had already laid the foundation for the establishment of the FIU.

"You do not need to preach to the converted as the Anti-Money Laundering Act was passed by parliament in February and received Presidential Assent in the same February of 2012. The speedy endorsement of the law is a clear manifestation of the seriousness government attaches to the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing in Sierra Leone. Before the end of this month (January) we will appoint a director that will be working alongside the governor in the unit", he assured.

The President also noted that the ratification of the convention on Money Laundering as well as the UN convention on Terrorism will be looked into by the current House of Parliament, and that the visit of the GIABA Director General will further consolidate the supervision of the process saying that; "the unit will soon be established in Sierra Leone and that the necessary equipment will be put in place to ensure its full operation".

The Director General of GIABA Dr Abdullahi Shehu while congratulating President Koroma on his resounding re-election, observed that the victory was an indication of confidence demonstrated in his leadership by the people.

Dr Shehu however encouraged President Koroma to continue to steer the mantle of leadership of the country, and further praised him for the strong support he has given to the region.

GIABA Director General informed President Koroma that the project requires high level of commitment particularly in the area of the establishment of the FIU, which is an international requirement that had long been misunderstood, adding that it took him six hours to explain to the Guinean Minister of Finance about the importance of the unit.

"We have a comprehensive budget to support the project with software and by the time it is ready the law enforcement aspect will be playing an active role in the whole process", he said, while also maintaining that the unit is the only organ that is related with other law enforcement agencies like Interpol. He therefore implored President Koroma for the provision of the necessary infrastructure to make the project successful.

He however reiterated the importance of the unit, saying that it will give confidence to the investment and business communities within member states; a reason why the delegation was in Sierra Leone asking for his fatherly intervention.

"We want to take the advantage to see that things actually move in the positive direction", he reassured President Koroma.

GIABA is a specialized institution established by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in 2000 to develop strategies for the prevention and control of transnational crime, especially money laundering and terrorism financing in member states.

A major responsibility of GIABA is to help member states undertake self-evaluation and mutual evaluation to ascertain their level of compliance with acceptable international standards against money laundering and the prevention of the financing of terrorism, particularly the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-forty recommendations.

The organization also grants observer status to African and non-African states as well as Inter-Governmental Organizations that support its objectives and actions which have applied for such status.

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