Liberia Takes Global Fight Against Terrorism and Money Laundering To Non-State Actors
Monrovia – Liberia has taken a giant step in the global fight against money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).
Report by Danesius Marteh, [email protected]
With support from the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), the Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia (FIU) has been holding series of national awareness and sensitization program for non-state actors.
The first regional awareness was held at the Tubmanburg city hall in Bomi County where more than 30 participants (chiefs, women and youth groups and civil society) were drawn from Bomi, Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount Counties on September 2.
Tubmanburg city mayor Rebecca Benson encouraged the participants to help spread the message.
“We’ve come to realize that when workshops are held, people just look at the instant benefits but the results are buried after you walked through the doors.
We hope this won’t happen at this workshop. You will be able to spread the message,” said Rebecca.
Civil society organizations (CSOs) are as worst seen as having an adversarial relationship and at best seen as partners in progress to government.
CSOs regional head in Bomi Omasco Z. Kamara thinks they can take-up the mantle of a continuous awareness throughout the region.
“Only trainings among us can show whether somebody in the community can build a fabulous house from the salary he/she is working.
Just from today, I know that money laundering is another form of corruption. There is a need to call that particular person or persons to book but how can we do that? We need your support,” Omasco disclosed.
The FIUL was established as an autonomous agency by an act of the legislature in 2012 (FIU Act, 2012 enacted into Law on April 30, 2013) to serve as the central, national agency responsible for receiving, requesting and conducting preliminary investigations, analyzing and disseminating information concerning suspected proceeds of money laundering, terrorist financing and other financial crimes.
But why should the FIU engaged in sensitization when its name suggests financial intelligence.
“As you may be aware, this fight against money laundering and countering financing of terrorism is a global one; it is a regional one and it is a national initiative. So their participation and knowledge will counter in the AML/CFT regime will counter the commission of some of these predicate offenses,” said FIU deputy director Gabriel W. Bellepea.
Gabriel said he was thrilled by the level of interaction from the participants, who included journalist Jenneh Kemokai of Radio Cape Mount.
“They were very much interested in the topics because these things border directly on their daily lives, their children, the regional security, their personal security and the economy of this country. So their level of reactions and participation show that they are ready to join this fight,” he pointed-out.
The FIU, with the approval of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in March, issued four regulations to enhance the AML/CFT regime on May 26 in collaboration with the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).
They include regulation dealing with cross-border transportation of currency and bearer negotiable instrument (CBTC); regulation for further distribution and action on the United Nations list of terrorists and terrorist groups (UNLTTGs); regulation on currency transaction reporting for financial institutions (CTR) and regulation on suspicious transaction reporting for financial institutions (STR).
The CBTC regulation requires all persons entering or existing Liberia by land, sea or air to declare currency or instrument above the threshold of US$10,000 or its equivalent in Liberian dollars.
All persons are obligated to provide customs officers with all relevant information or documentation to determine whether resources above the threshold being transported across the border are legitimate in origin and or method of acquisition.
The UNLTTGs regulation seeks to implement the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1267 & 1373, and specifically as it relates to the further distribution of and action on the UN’s list of terrorists and terrorist groups.
It requires reporting, regulatory and other entities to inform the FIU upon receipt of the list of any customer and or potential customer on the list.
Financial institutions and other entities must also screen new and potential customers and inform the FIU about any transaction or attempted transaction by a name identified on the list.
The CTR regulation requires the mandatory filing of cash transactions reports by financial institutions to the FIU based on the threshold of US$5,000 and above or L$100,000 (one hundred thousand Liberian dollars) for individuals or US$10,000 and above or L$1,000,000 (one million Liberian dollars) and above for businesses and institutions.
The STR regulation requires the mandatory filling of suspicious transaction reports by financial institutions to the FIU where there exist any reasonable grounds, including facts and circumstances that indicates a transaction maybe unusual or suspicious.
It is also required that financial institutions are exact or certain that the transaction is definitely connected to criminal activity.
The regulations on CTR and STR are to be implemented by financial institutions and regulated by the CBL.
The FIUL has requested the public to fully adhere to these regulations as it is committed to ensuring its implementation to the letter “to protect Liberia’s financial systems from abuse of financial crimes for the enhancement of national, regional and global peace and economic stability”.
Attorney-at-law Wonderr Freeman is the FIU legal counsel and he believes there is still much to achieve.
“Finding resources to do what we want to do can be a problem. The other issue has to do with implementation of the laws. We have a situation where some of the prosecutors may not be very familiar with the entire money laundering legal regime.
You will see that some of the financial offenses maybe linked to money laundering. But if you prosecute and only look at the predicate offense, the first offense, and you don’t look at the money laundering angle you might be denying a good opportunity for the government to be able to confiscate property and seize accounts. So we want for the prosecutors to be aware of the laws on money laundering and to utilize them,” Wonderr explained.
An awareness workshop, which discussed an overview, legal and regulatory framework and some red flags (typology) of the AML/CFT regime, was held for insurance companies from September 5-6 at the FIU office in Sinkor.
“It has been a rewarding experience for me because this is an area that we have all been waiting for us to make our contribution to the AML/CFT. The awareness was timely because insurance companies have a big role to play in money laundering and countering terrorism,” said Samuel Mintah, executive director of the Insurance Company of Africa (ICA).
One of the recommendations adopted from the workshop is for insurance companies to recruit or train compliance officer(s) to implement the AML/CFT regime.
“This should not be so tough [for us] because my institution already have a compliance officer. We also have internal regulators and internal auditors. So this will just be a matter of reinforcing and creating additional hurdles to prevent these kinds of occurrences because terrorists and money launderers look for soft targets,” said Joe M. Karpeh, head of marketing at Secure Risk Insurance Company.
The second regional workshop, which brought participants from Grand Bassa, Montserrado and Margibi Counties, was held in Buchanan on September 8.
The third regional workshop, which will bring participants from Lofa, Nimba and Bong Counties, will be held in Gbarnga on September 15.
With support from the United States embassy near Monrovia, FIU conducted an awareness and sensitization workshop for judges and prosecutors from December 11-12, 2014 at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.
With the collaboration of the Liberia Law Enforcement Agency, the FIU held AML/CFT awareness workshop at selected ports of entry and exit on March 5, 2015.
GIABA is a specialized institution of the Economic Community of West African states (Ecowas) responsible for facilitating the adoption and implementation of (AML/CFT) in West Africa.
It is also the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) style regional body (FSRB) in West Africa and works with states in the region to ensure compliance with international AML/CFT standards.
GIABA, which was established in 2000 with headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, consists of 15 members.