The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing (GIABA) has urged the Gambia to amend her Anti-Money Laundering laws with a view to bring it in line with the international standards.
The Gambia’s Anti-Money Laundering Act 2003 is not up to standard as it designated only 13 predicate offences for money laundering. This falls short of the minimum 20 designated categories under the recommendation of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is the principal international standard body setting on money laundering and terrorist financing.
|Dr Abdullahi Shehu, GIABA DG|
The director general of GIABA, Dr Abdullahi Shehu said they are negotiating with the Gambian authorities to make sure that they amend and pass a standard anti-money laundering legislation. He noted that the negotiation has been fruitful as the Gambian authorities had agreed to amend the law.
“Now we are really working together with them to make sure that the law is amended because where there is no law or where the law is weak, it create a vacuum for criminals to take over,” said Dr Shehu, DG of GIABA - a specialized institution of ECOWAS responsible for the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorist financing in the West African sub-region.
Money laundering situation in Gambia
Various reports on the money laundering situation of the Gambia indicates that the menace is increasingly a major problem in the country hence the need for the government to make significant efforts at beefing up its machinery by putting in place appropriate and standard legislation to combat the social evils.
With poor regulatory mechanism, combating the menace of money laundering in the Gambia seems to be a marmot task and the latest annual report of GIABA which states that factors such as porous borders, weak controls systems, high prevailing poverty, and massive inflows of tourists are contributing to an increase in the money laundering risk environment in the country.
However, although the laundering of illicit money is increasingly a major problem in the country, its magnitude or severity remains relatively difficult to determine.
The 2011 Annual Report, released in April, examines economic indicators and the potential risk factors such as the prevalence of cash transactions, predicate offences; such as drug trafficking, corruption and tax evasion,
The report, which also examined the relevant ML/FT infrastructure, including legal and institutional frameworks and the involvement of civil society, indicated that in The Gambia proceeds of crime are mainly derived from drug trafficking, bribery and corruption, the tourism industry, foreign exchange transactions, and other related acquisitive crimes.
Booming sectors vulnerable
Almost all booming sectors of the Gambia economy are vulnerable to money laundering, according to the GIABA’s report. The banking industry, foreign exchange transactions, the tourism industry, and the real estate are all sectors cited by the report to be among the most vulnerable sectors to money laundering.
All these sectors, particular banking and the real estate sectors continues to witness tremendous growth over the years at the same time drug trafficking is also increasing couple with the porous borders and weak controls pose even a greater risk to the country.
The Gambian government has taken steps to prevent its financial system from being misused as a conduit for the transfer and retention of illicit funds, but the various agencies involved in Anti-Money Laundering activities have not been allocated adequate resources.
The Central Bank of the Gambia and its Financial Intelligence Unit lack the required technical and operational personnel to supervise and monitor financial institutions’ compliance with the deficient Money Laundry Act.
Additionally, the Financial Supervision Department is understaffed and is not likely to function effectively as the FIU because its primary role of supervising financial institutions and non-bank financial institutions for prudential purposes is considered a priority at the moment.
With 23 staff members, the Department is barely meeting its primary obligation to supervise the financial institutions effectively.