“Align Domestic Laws with Best Practices” -FIU, Justice Minister Urge

MONROVIA – The Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia and Liberia’s Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, have jointly sounded powerful statements calling for straight adherence to domestic laws and practices in Liberia that aligned with international best practices to prevent and reduce money laundering, financing of terrorist and proliferation financing.

Making separate remarks at the opening session of the onsite visits organized by GIABA recently in Monrovia, FIU Liberia Officer in Charge, Emmanuel T. Gee elaborated that the ongoing second mutal evaluation and beyond require all Liberians and other nationals demonstrate robust compliance with all Anti- Money Laundering, Terrorist financing and proliferation financing laws and regulations in Liberia.

According to the experienced Financial Professional, Liberia is being evaluated for technical and effective compliance in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) 40 recommendations and the 11 expected outcomes.

He mentioned that Anti- Money Laundering, Financing of terrorist and proliferation financing laws and implementation should be prioritized by Liberians and other nationals to adhere to FATF standards.

The Chief Administrator of the Financial Intelligence Unit now transitioned to the Financial Intelligence Agency of Liberia (FIA), said the assessment of Liberia by the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) onsite visit is in continuation of the country’s mutual evaluation process that has the ability to attract foreign direct investments to Liberia, when the country’s assessment report is positive.

Also making remarks at the onsite visit opening session, Liberia’s Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean voiced strong worded assertion calling for the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) recommendations that support FATF’s 40 recommendations and other global standards should be obeyed by the public in Liberia to help give the country a positive reputation.

According to Liberia’s Attorney General, GIABA works with member states to ensure domestic Anti- Money Laundering laws comply with the 40 recommendations published by FATF to protect all countries’ financial systems.

“You are aware that Liberia underwent its first round of mutual evaluation in 2010. The Country’s performance was unsatisfactory and rated largely noncompliant with FATF Anti-Money Laundering standards,” he gave a reminder.

“I am pleased to inform you that several legal reforms have been carried out since 2010, especially over the last three years.

He continued: “in execution resolution by GIABA, Liberia conducted, launched and published its first ever National Risk Assessment (NRA) in 2011, under the supervision of the National Inter-ministerial Committee on Anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.

The NRA found that in essence there existed enormous vulnerabilities in Anti- money laundering legislations of Liberia, thus leading to prevalent commissions of the following predicate crimes: corruption and bribery, tax evasion, illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, trafficking in persons and migrants smuggling and currency counterfeiting.

Cllr. Dean said in 2011, Liberia developed a National Anti-money laundering and terrorist financing strategy and action plan to mitigate the identified threats of the NRA.

He asserted that the National AML/CFT Inter-ministerial Committee (IMC) overseeing the process and bills addressing the high corruption and illicit drug trafficking risks, identified in the NRA were forwarded to the Legislature for enactment.

“The Liberia Anti- Corruption Commission (LACC) sought to amend its Act to align with the high risk of corruption identified in the NRA Report by placing before the Legislature a bill for direct prosecutorial powers to prosecute corruption directly, as opposed to forwarding its findings or recommendations to the Ministry of Justice for action in 90 days, before the LACC can proceed to prosecute, if the Ministry of Justice fails to take action,” the Liberian Justice Minister recounted.

“LACC submitted a bill to the Legislature for the establishment of a specialized court on corruption to be named Criminal Court F,” Cllr. Dean explained.

The FIU sought to transition to an Agency (Financial Intelligence Agency) with more operational and financial autonomy, as well as provisions in compliance with FATF 40 recommendations and other global standards, thus addressing the high money laundering risks identified in the National Risk Assessment Report.

The Bill was passed and printed into handbill by authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Liberia in late July 2022.

The Liberian Attorney General said: ” still addressing the money laundering/ Terrorist financing and predicate offenses risks in Liberia, the country’s AML/ CFT Act of 2012 was repealed and replaced with the AML/ CFT Provisional Measure Proceeds of Crimes Act of 2021 which has been passed and printed into handbill in July 2022; while the Civil Law on Provisional Remedies Proceeds of Crimes 2013 remains in force.

He pointed out that other bills seeking to address the high risks have been passed and printed into handbills by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Liberia.

He named the WhistleBlower Protection Action Act of 2021, Witness Protection Act 2021 and New Liberia Anti- Corruption Commission Act of 2021, among others.

For his part, the Director General of GIABA, Edwin W. Harris, said the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa appreciates the cooperation from Liberia’s Mutual Evaluation Coordination Team and observed that detailed preparations and organization by Liberia could help the mutual evaluation on-site will be completed successfully.

He noted that the presence of high profiled political authorities in Liberia is an indication that the country has demonstrated high-level political commitment to the second-round mutual evaluation process and the implementation of AML/CFT measures in Liberia.

“The Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS established GIABA in 2000 in response to the negative impact of Money Laundering, Terrorist financing and other organized crimes in West Africa.

According to him, one of the core functions of GIABA as a FATF Regional Body is to assess the level of compliance of its member states with the international AML/CFT measures particularly the FATF standards through mutual evaluation.

The evaluation is conducted in line with existing FATF standards and methodology, as well as the GIABA mutual evaluation process and procedures.

Following the conclusion of the first round of evaluations in 2013, GIABA commenced the second round in 2016.

He noted that GIABA has evaluated 13 member states under the second round and this onsite visit to Liberia is the 14th exercise.

Mr. Harris explained that Mutual Evaluation is a peer review process where GIABA member states are assessed by other countries in an independent, fair and transparent way.

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