By Amie Sanneh
A Regional Course on combating Money Laundering and other Financial Crimes yesterday, May 9, 2015 opened in Banjul.
The course which is being organized by the West African Institute for Financial Management (WAIFEM) is expected to end on 13 May, 2016.
The First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of the Gambia, Basiru A.O. Njai, said the most talked about economic and financial crime today is money laundering which is described as “the processing of criminal proceeds in order to disguise their illegal origin”.
Money laundering, he added, is closely related to illicit trafficking in narcotics and human beings, corruption, terrorism, prostitution, illegal mining and other nefarious activities; financial crimes such as foreign exchange malpractices, bank and tax fraud.
Njai explained that the dominant role of banks in the financial system has made them the first place of call in all financial transactions, whether legitimate or illegitimate. “Money launderers all over the world have found the banking industry the most convenient ally in their illicit activities,” he said. Bank facilities, he added, are used knowingly and unknowingly to further the act of money laundering and, in most cases, to retain the proceeds of such crime.
“In fact, the general but serious assumption is that over 80% of the proceeds of money laundering are associated with banks, one way or the other, all over the world,” said the First Deputy Governor.
Round tripping, financial fraud, capital flight, fake cheques, fake currency minting, advanced fee fraud and insiders abuse, according to Njai, are examples of financial crimes and money laundering activities which are executed through banks.
Money laundering, said the First Deputy Governor, has an adverse effect on the health and development of the financial system. “The effects of money laundering and related economic and financial crimes are enormous, causing distortions in the financial market through misallocation of investment and negating the old adage that “crime does not pay,” he said.
He noted that, in addition, money laundering enables criminal organizations to consolidate their economic power base, thereby allowing the criminals to penetrate the legitimate economy
According to him, the activities of money launderers and terrorists are borderless. He explains that they form part of a large network operating across agencies and across borders. This, he added, has exerted more pressure on governments in the sub-region to put in place adequate measures to combat this menace. He said “By their very nature, economic and financial crimes occur outside of the normal purview of economic statistics.”
Mr. Njai said money laundering and related organised crimes remain key problems in the sub-region and economic growth and development are impaired by this menace.
“To be truly effective in fighting money laundering, our countries need to have a robust criminal legislative structure to back up the crusade against organized crime,” said the First Deputy Governor.
Money laundering being a global problem, he said it requires an appropriate response at the international, regional and national levels. He however cited the effort being made at both the International and regional levels such as the establishment of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 1989, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, the setting up of Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering (GIABA).
Describing the growth of organized forms of crime globally as alarming, he said the extent in terms of dimension, nature and level of sophistication has over the last two decades attracted the attention of the international community.
“Since the events of September 11, 2001, there have been concerted efforts by all nations to work together to implement effective measures against serious crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and avert the misuse of the international financial system by such criminals,” he said.
The Director General of WAIFEM, Prof. Akpan H. Ekpo, for his part, told participants that they will be celebrating twenty years of capacity building in the subregion this year,
Giving a brief background of his institution, WAIFEM, Prof. Ekpo said it was established in 1996 by the central banks of the five Anglophone West African countries namely, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. The principal mandate of the Institute, he noted, is to strengthen capacity for sound debt, financial sector and macroeconomic management in the countries of its member central banks.
The WAIFEM DG said since they commenced operations in 1997, they have executed 552 training and capacity building programmes in the form of national and regional courses/workshops/seminars, executive and legislative for a demand assessment and follow-up missions which have benefited about 15,000 middle/senior executive level officials, legislators and journalists predominately from countries of member banks but also from francophone West Africa, Eastern, Northern and Southern Africa, as well as Latin America,
Prof. Ekpo explained that they now have a Business Development Unit (BDU) that caters for the capacity needs of the private sector.
He said in today’s open and globalized financial economy, the quantum of financial and economic crimes have been on the increase and pose a threat to the integrity of the financial system.