The governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia has told accountants and financial experts meeting in Banjul that the country has made significant efforts in beefing up its machinery to combat the social evils of money laundering and terrorism financing.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop on Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating Financial Terrorism (CFT) requirements for accountants organised at the Kairaba Beach Hotel by the Inter-Governmental Action Against Money Laundering West Africa (GIABA), Governor Amadou Colley lamented the threats posed by financial crimes to national economies.
He informed the participants of the various interventions by The Gambia towards combating money laundering, terrorism financing and other financial crimes. He recalled that in 2012, the country enacted the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Financial Terrorism Act to address the shortcomings identified in the Money Laundering Act 2003 and the Anti-Terrorism Act 2002. "This has paved the way for the inauguration of the FIU Board in February 2013 and plans are now at an advanced stage for the full independence of the FIU as soon as the newly appointed director resumes duty," he informed. The CBG boss went on to commend GIABA for organising the workshop, which he said, will to a great extent help build capacities of accountants in combating money laundering, terrorism financing and other related economic and financial crimes. He described money laundering as simply the process of making the proceeds of crime to appear to have legitimate origin, observing that the proceeds or wealth to be laundered can be generated from a number of criminal acts. In the past, the governor pointed out, money laundering was mainly associated with trafficking in drugs. However, he lamented that today, the designated categories of offences are numerous and include, among others, sexual exploitation, trafficking in human beings, corruption and bribery, fraud, currency counterfeiting and most recently, tax evasion. The senior economist opined that money laundering could have devastating effects on national economies that could occur to any country. "The menace could have serious economic and social consequences particularly for developing countries. This is so because developing economies tend to be small and, therefore, more susceptible to disruption from criminal influences," he further remarked.
Governor Colley also told the participants that a number of professions are inadvertently linked to the risk posed by money laundering and terrorism financing, prominent among which he said, include accountants, lawyers, and dealers in precious stones and metals. The possible exposure of accountants to money laundering, in his view, could occur through the professional representation of a criminal and assisting them prepare what may seem to be genuine financial statements. "Such professions are considered gatekeepers in that they provide the first opportunity for a criminal to complete the process of transforming illicit proceeds of crimes to look legitimate and that accounts prepared in a particular way could also facilitate tax evasion and other predicate offences," he added.
The CBG governor then enjoined the participants to extract as much knowledge as possible from the facilitators during the training. The director general of GIABA, Dr. Abdullahi Shehu, for his part, told the accountants that as financial professionals and gatekeepers, they cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to being involved in the laundering of criminal proceeds. "You are expected to be on the lookout for possible criminal activities because, even if you are judged to have been unaware of the full nature of a client's shady business, you will be subjected to legal or professional penalties at the end of the day," he enlightened the accountants. Dr. Shehu said accountants are required to adopt and implement robust AML/CFT measures in the area of customer due diligence, record keeping, due diligence with regard to politically exposed persons, new technologies and reliance on third parties. "In order to assist accountants in performing their functions, FAFT have developed a set of guidelines for you to effectively enforce acceptable international standards including adopting best practice measures," he disclosed.
The GIABA chief challenged the participants to acquaint themselves with these guidelines to meet their obligations under their respective countries' laws. He urged the accountants to continue to cooperate and collaborate with relevant authorities in their respective countries to curb the menace of ML/TF and ensure that criminals do not profit from the proceeds of their crimes. He also thanked the government of The Gambia and its line Ministries of Finance, Justice and Interior respectively, for the support given to GIABA in this and other training workshops held in Banjul.