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08.05.2007 Crime & Punishment

Co-operate To Fight Money Laundering

A Five-day capacity-building workshop for financial intelligence units (FIUs) in the West African sub-region has opened with a call on personnel of the units to develop the muscles and focus to control money laundering.

The Minister of National Security, Mr Francis Poku, who made the call, advised that the FIUs should not be seen to be engaging in turf-wars with other law enforcement agencies in the discharge of their functions.

He said the units should rather be seen as reflecting a global recognition of the scale of the problem created by criminal gangs who used money laundering to sustain their industry.

The workshop, which is being organised by the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism in West Africa (GIABA), in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, has participants drawn from the five English-speaking member states of GIABA.

It is expected to improve the understanding of the policy, legal, structural and management issues related to FIUs and also for them to appreciate the technicalities associated with the receipt, analysis and dissemination of suspicious transaction reports.

Mr Poku reiterated the need for all state institutions, including the FIUs, to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens, even as they pursued wrong-doers.

“This implies that FIUs must develop structures to manage confidential information that they receive in the course of their functions,” he added.

He, therefore, suggested that appropriate personnel who had been trained to manage confidential information and had sworn oaths of secrecy should be considered for appointment.

Mr Poku urged the participants to look at the realities of their own national institutions and come up with appropriate options for each country.

He noted that the workshop was taking place at a time when Ghanaians were watching with keen interest the activities of law enforcement agencies and all state institutions charged with the responsibility of monitoring the illegal networks of drug traffickers, terrorists and others who might use money laundering to sustain their criminal industry.

According to him, the issue of money laundering had been handled in the most non-partisan manner and indicated that in 1997, the NDC government initiated comprehensive discussions on the subject.

Mr Poku said the NPP government, since taking over power, had initiated several technical committee meetings in its quest to enact a Money Laundering Law.

Currently, he said, the Anti-Money Laundering Bill was before a parliamentary subcommittee where the keen scrutiny of the various provisions of the bill had been based, “not on partisan political considerations but on the desire for the success of any future legislation”.

The Director-General of GIABA, Dr Abdullahi Shehu, said the workshop would provide the participants an opportunity to share their perception and understanding of the problem of money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as their experience in dealing with those scourges.

He pointed out that apart from undermining the integrity of political and judicial systems and the stability of national and international financial sectors, money laundering could break down the orderliness of legitimate companies and markets, among other issues.

Story by Albert K. Salia