The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs in collaboration with the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) Thursday inaugurated the board of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), at the CBG's Conference Hall in Banjul.This is also a way of stimulating efforts aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing in the country and beyond.
The FIU, which has been operating as a unit of the Central Bank for quite sometime, would now become fully independent following the inauguration of its board. The FIU is mandated to render services such as assisting in the identification of proceeds of criminal conduct and the combating of money laundering and other terrorist financing. It is also vested with powers and functions necessary for the effective discharge of the objects for which it is established.
Officially inaugurating the Unit, the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Abdou Kolley, said that with the inauguration of the FIU, The Gambia is taking resolute steps to ensure that the provisions of the new anti-money laundering legislation are effectively implemented. "In this regard, I look forward to significant progress by the next GIABA plenary meeting scheduled for May 2013," he said.
Addressing the board, the Finance minister reminded them that that one of their tasks is the identification of potential candidates for appointment as director of the FIU and other key professional and support staff necessary for effective functioning of the Unit. "As a board, you are comprised of individuals that play critical roles at different levels of government machinery in the fight against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing within our borders. You are therefore expected to bring to bear your diverse expertise in the discharge of your oversight duties," he stated.
He further expressed optimism that their collective competence and ability to work as a team would ensure that the objectives for which the FIU was established are met.
On Gambia's commitment to combat money laundering, the Finance minister recalled that in April 2003, The Gambia as part of her engagement with the Inter-governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a specialised agency of ECOWAS, conducted an on-site mutual evaluation exercise to assess the country's level of compliance with Anti-Money Laundering and combating the financing of terrorism standards. "In November of the same year, the GIABA plenary adopted a report identifying a number of deficiencies in the legal and institutional frameworks of the country, for which the government of The Gambia was required to take action," he disclosed.
Minister Kolley informed the gathering that as part of efforts to remedy the situation and bring legislation inline with international standards, the Money Laundering Act 2003 was repealed with the enactment of the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Terrorist Financing Act 2012. He added that the new legislation ensures that the provisions of the country's law are in sync with the Financial Action Task Force with 40 recommendations against terrorism financing.
For his part, the governor of CBG, Amadou Colley, who is also the chairman of the newly inaugurated board, said that the negativities of money laundering and terrorist financing transcend borders and as a result, the fight against these menaces has attracted several global, regional and national initiatives. "In The Gambia, the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing dates back to 2002 with the enactment of the Anti-Terrorist Act 2002. The Gambia passed into Law the Money Laundering Act 2003, in respect to various international conventions in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing," he intimated.
Colley recalled that in 2005, at a stakeholders' conference, it was agreed that the CBG, given its experience as the regulatory and supervisory authority for financial institutions, is better equipped to implement the Act.
He added: "Consequently, in 2006, CBG was appointed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to implement the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Act, 2003, which led to the establishment of FIU under the financial Supervision Department (FSD) of CBG in 2007."
He explained that following a mutual evaluation exercise on the country by GIABA, recommendations were made such as the review of the Money Laundering Act 2003 to meet international standards on AML and terrorist financing with the need for establishment of an independent FIU by law. "The Central Bank of The Gambia has since, with the collaboration of all stakeholder ministries and departments, worked hard towards attaining this goal which led to the final enactment of the AML Act 2012," he further intimated.
He finally saluted the Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, for the unflinching support he rendered to the Inter-Ministerial Committee in its efforts to reform the AML and CFT Act 2012.
The Attorney General and minister of Justice, Lamin Jobarteh, described money laundering and terrorist financing as one of the biggest threats the world is facing at the moment, while calling on the board to execute its duties as expected. "If you properly do your duty, you are doing a good job for everybody. As a board, when things go right everybody benefits, but when they go wrong everyone will suffer," he said.
The board of the FIU is comprised of the representative of CBG who shall be the chairperson; PS from the Finance Ministry; PS from the interior Ministry; one senior police officer not below the rank of Commissioner appointed by the minister of Interior; director FIU, the Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority and the Solicitor General and Legal Secretary. The board is also tasked to formulate and ensure the implementation of the policies necessary for the achievement of the objects of FIU.