National Assembly members have unanimously endorsed a Bill which states that an individual found guilty of committing money laundering offences shall be sentenced to a prison term of not less than 10 years.
For corporate body, a fine of not less than D10 million or an order for the revocation of its license of operations shall be levied against it.
The Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Bill 2012 also stipulates that an individual who directly or indirectly commits the offence of financing of terrorism, and is liable, shall be imprisoned for a term of not less than 10 years and in case of corporate body to a fine of not less than D10 million.
Tabling the Bill before parliamentarians for approval on Wednesday, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Abdou Kolley said the government “remains highly committed” to fighting the twin menaces of money laundering and financing terrorism and has therefore declared zero tolerance for drugs abuse, money laundering and other criminal acts.
However, he noted that The Gambia, like many other countries in the sub-region, is exposed to the risk of money laundering due to porous borders, weak controls, the dominance of cash transactions, as well s drug-related and other criminal flows.
Hon. Kolley said it is in cognizance of this threat that the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) was established by ECOWAS in 2000.
“The establishment of GIABA was done to ensure the development of strategies to protect the economies of ECOWAS member states from the laundering of the proceeds of crime, improvement of measures and intensifying efforts to combat the laundering of proceeds of crime in West Africa and strengthening co-operation amongst its members,” he said.
In November 2008 the GIABA Plenary adopted a report identifying deficiencies in The Gambia’s legal and institutional frameworks with regard to combating money laundering and terrorism financing.
According to the finance minister, these deficiencies include inadequate coverage of predicate offences which needed to be broadened in line with the standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the principal international standard body setting on money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Money Laundering Act 2003 of The Gambia designated only 13 predicate offences for money laundering instead of the minimum 20 designated categories as recommended by the FATF.
Furthermore, Hon. Kolley pointed out that the 2003 Act falls short of international standards as it failed to include counter-terrorist financing measures.
The Act also failed to align thresholds for money laundering offences with international best practices, he said, adding that even the name - the Money Laundering Act 2003 - runs contrary to the intended purposes.
“In an effort to remedy the situation, and bring our legislation in line with international standards, there is need to amend the current anti-money laundering legislation, including changing the name of the Money Laundering Act 2003 to Anti-Money Laundering Act 2012 and also upgrade it to the standard recommended by the FATF,” he explained.
This is what necessitated the repealing of the Money Laundering Act 2003 and the replacing of it with the Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Bill 2012, Hon. Kolley stated.
The Bill was therefore approved by the country’s lawmakers “in view of its non-controversial nature”.