Money laundering is one of the major crimes of our time, and aside from the associated predicate crimes, it is strongly linked with terrorism financing, said the first deputy governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG).
Basiru Njie was speaking Monday during the opening ceremony of a five-day workshop on financial analysis at a local hotel in Banjul, organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for the staff of the Financial Intelligent Units (FIU) of The Gambia and Sierra Leone.
He said while it is absolutely impossible to know precisely the amount of illicit funds laundered, some studies suggest that they run in the billions if not trillions of dollars a year and poses significant policy concerns for governments.
"For instance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes that Money laundering may account for 2 to 5 % of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), thus estimated to be as high as US$ 3.6 trillion," he disclosed.
The first deputy governor disclosed that illicit income from drug traffickers accounts for a large chunk of laundered money and that more worryingly; the accumulation of wealth by drug traffickers poses a grave threat to the security of nations. "As the head of UNODC once put it, where crime and corruption reign and drug money perverts the economy, the state no longer has a monopoly on the use of force and its citizens no longer trust their leaders and public institutions," he stated.
Njie said the authority of heads of state in West Africa are unreservedly committed to fighting the menace of money laundering and terrorism financing, which he said, has been demonstrated by the establishment of the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) in the year 2000. The institution's remit, he indicated, include to protect the banking and financial system of the member states from being penetrated by criminal proceeds and to strengthen international cooperation between the member states. Njie informed that at the national level, the Gambian authorities continue to put in place legal, institutional and other measures in accordance with international best practices in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.
Ludovic D' hoore from the UNODC said the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing is an essential dimension of any nation's efforts to reducing the threat resulting from various forms of crimes. "By witnessing the acts of terrorist groups operating in countries like Mali and Nigeria, and in other parts of the world, we are painfully reminded almost on a daily basis of their destructive impact on society on the prospects for social, economic or any form of development in a secured environment and on the very existence of government institution," D' hoore added. He also pointed out that money launderers only seek to enrich themselves without due consideration for economic development by distorting competition and discouraging honest investors. He informed that illicit money facilitates corruption and has weakened states' capacity to respond effectively to these criminal phenomena. He said it is therefore essential that countries consider the fight against money laundering, terrorism financing and economic and financial crime in general as an essential strategic dimension of their criminal policies. "FIUs are key players when it comes to AML/CFT as they form the link between the two components. Establishing strong Financing Intelligent Units (FIUs) is essential to making such strategies work," he stressed.
The UNDOC official commended the governments of The Gambia and Sierra Leone for the efforts they have been making in furthering the functional status of their FIUs.
Other speakers at the occasion were the director of The Gambia FIU, Yaya Camara and the charge d' affaires of the US Embassy in Banjul, Richard T. Yoneoka.