GIABA Intelligent Unit Brainstorm on Ways to Combat Illicit Cash Flow in & Out of Liberia

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Monrovia – Liberia’s top financial experts have assured that the government is collaborating with its regional and international partners to curb money laundering and terrorists financing.

Speaking to reporters at the recently held pre-assessment workshop training on the second round of the Mutual Evaluation of Liberia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (AML/CTF), Deputy Finance Minister for Economic Affairs, Augustus J. Flomo said the fight against money laundering and counterterrorism should be a holistic approach as well as team effort.

“Let’s work together collectively as a team to combat the illegal practice from the region and the globe at large,” he said.

He stressed that the fight is not a one-man activity nor is it an easy one to deal with, especially with the advanced technology in the hands of crafty people involved in the illegal practice money laundering.

The training workshop was organized by the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) in collaboration with Liberia’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). It was held in accordance with GIABA’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards and also in compliance with its enabling statutes for member states, and brought together sixty-five participants as well as stakeholders within the country’s AML/CTF regime, and was intended to prepare the country for the evaluation and sensitizing officials from stakeholder institutions who would be involved in the mutual evaluation exercise to the processes and procedures.

The pre-assessment workshop is the first step into Liberia’s second round of mutual evaluation that culminates with onsite visitation in February 2022.

Mr. Flomo said the Government is concerned about the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing, adding, that is why it is working hard to meet up with its international obligations. He said some of the measures are the support to the FIU and the crafting and submission of several anti-money laundering bills before the Legislature for passage into law.

“The law that speaks specifically on fraud and anti-money laundering is important. So, the instrument when they are passed will give the FIU more teeth to bite,” he said.

He continued: “As a government, it [money laundering and terrorists financing] is a concern to us and to the regional body. We want to ensure that our country is free of bad people. Imagine if you have someone in the country who is supporting terrorists in another country to kill innocent people. We want to have good citizens, good people who are living and abiding by the laws of Liberia.”

Mr. Flomo pointed out that the more Liberia improves on its financial intelligence and capabilities, the greater it is able to improve its abilities to make the best and important decision in ensuring that it remains in compliance with agreed protocols and frameworks put aside by GIABA and other international bodies.

He pledged government’s support to Liberia’s FIU to ensure that it meets up with its mandate of regional compliance. With the establishment of the FIU and its continued support, he said Liberia is in line with the fight to the core.

Also speaking, FIU Director Edwin E. Harris said in 2010 when the first Round of Mutual Evaluation of Liberia was conducted by GIABA, the country was lacking in almost everything that it takes to prevent and fight crimes related to money laundering and terrorist financing. However, with over 11 follow-up reports made over the last eight years and other progress, Liberia has come a long way in the strive to join the region and the rest of the world in fighting money laundering and terrorist financing, in spite of the many challenges and gaps that exist.

He noted that the FIU is about to release the national risk assessment on money laundering for the first in Liberia, adding that preliminary report indicates that the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing is very high, and called on Legislature to pass the anti-money laundering bill submitted to the Legislature by President George Weah.

“We will be publishing the national risk assessment on money laundering for the first time in Liberia. I don’t want to state the result right now. But we have a high risk based on the assessment we did. But it will be published soon and given to the public,” he said.

For his part, GIABA Director General, Justice Kimelabalou ABA, thanked the Liberian authorities, particularly the three line Ministers (Justice, Finance and Internal Affairs) for their commitment toward the implementation of a robust AML/CTF regime in the country. He told the gathering that one of the core mandates of GIABA as an FATF-Style Regional Body (FSRB) is to ascertain the level of compliance of its member States with the international AML/CTF measures FATF Standards through mutual evaluation.

He said the evaluation is conducted in line with existing FATF Standards and Methodology and the GIABA Mutual Evaluation Process and Procedures (P&P). he lauded Liberia for making progress in 2011 and December 2020 including the enactment of relevant legislations, development of appropriate regulations and strengthening of institutions, among others in addressing the deficiencies identified in the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) of 2011.

How the Evaluation and Report Are Conducted

Member States of GIABA agree to subject themselves to a mutual assessment process in conformity with international standards for preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism as contained in Articles 12 to 14 of the GIABA Statute. The scope of the Evaluations is to assess whether the necessary laws, regulations or other measures required under the essential criteria are in force and effect, that there has been a full and proper implementation of all the necessary measures, and that the AML/CFT system as implemented is effective.

GIABA has adopted the FATF procedure in the evaluation of Member States. The evaluated country is rated depending on the efficacy of measures put in place to detect, prevent or sanction cases of money laundering and terrorist financing.

A report is issued after completion of the mutual evaluation. It is then discussed and adopted at GIABA Plenary. Once the report is adopted by the Plenary, it will be published on GIABA website unless the country raises an objection to the publication of the report. In such a situation, the Secretariat would publish a note to indicate that the country has chosen not to publish its report. The mutual evaluation onsite visits are based on the calendar approved from time to time by the GIABA Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee. The Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee is made up of three Ministers from each Member State namely the Ministries of Justice, Finance, and Interior.

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