In accordance with its Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards and also in compliance with its enabling statutes for members states, the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), on Monday, August 2, began a weeklong pre-assessment workshop training on the second round of Mutual Evaluation of Liberia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing (AML/CTF).
The workshop, which is being organized by the GIABA in partnership with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Liberia, brought together sixty-five participants as well as stakeholders within the country’s AML/CTF regime.
It also 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.
Deputy Finance Minister for Economic Affairs, Augustus J. Flomo, who spoke on behalf of Minister Samuel Tweah, 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 added.
Moreover, he stressed that the fight is not a one-man activity nor is it an easy one to deal with, especially with technology in the hands of crafty people involved in the illegal practice of AML/CTF.
He said the stronger Liberia gets in being able to improve its financial intelligence and capabilities, the greater Liberia is able to improve on its abilities to make the best and important decision in ensuring that Liberia remains in compliance with agreed protocols and frameworks put aside by GIABA and other international bodies.
Deputy Minister Flomo pledged government’s support to the Financial Intelligence Unit to ensure that it meets up with its mandate of regional compliance.
According to him, Liberia has taken its first step in the initiative and is of the conviction that Liberia will achieve compliance.
Minister Flomo said with the setting up of the FIU as well as support towards it, Liberia is in line with the fight to the core.
Also speaking, Edwin E. Harris, Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia, 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.
He said 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 pointed out that it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to rally to take the fight seriously as commitment and political will flows from the top.
As part of efforts to show Liberia’s seriousness to the fight, Mr. Harris stated that the Ministry of Justice submitted to the National Legislature the criminalization of trafficking in other goods, market manipulations and insider trading.
These instruments, he said, are currently before the Senate Committees on Judiciary, as well as Banking and Financing.
He used the occasion to call on other stakeholders to emanate the leadership role of the FIU in committing both financial and human resources to the process, owing to the fact that it is not an exclusive FIU initiative but a national initiative and that all must take ownership.
For his part, GIABA Director General, Justice Kimelabalou ABA, thanked national authorities of Liberia and particularly the three line Ministers for their commitment toward the implementation of a robust Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Terrorist Financing (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 particularly the Financial Action Task Force (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).
Mr. ABA lauded Liberia for making progress in 2011 and December 2020 including the enactment of relevant legislation, development of appropriate regulations, strengthening of institutions, etc. in addressing the deficiencies identified in the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) of 2011.
Notwithstanding the progress made, certain deficiencies still exist which led the Plenary in August 2020 to direct the country to work with the Secretariat to develop a short term Action Plan to address the identified gaps, he noted.
The GIABA boss indicated further that although progress was reported by Liberia on some few of these areas during the May 2021, he encouraged the country to intensify efforts to fully address the outstanding strategic deficiencies in the Action Plan before the onsite visit.
“I would also like to express my profound gratitude to the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and his team for their inestimable support towards the organization of this programme,” GIABA Director said.
He further commended Liberia for accepting to undergo the 2nd mutual evaluation with the on-site schedule for February/March 2022. Therefore, as the country prepares for the evaluation, it should take steps to ensure the existence of a robust AML/CTF regime including addressing the identified strategic deficiencies in its AML/CTF system as highlighted above in order to perform well during the evaluation.
According to him, the outcomes of the workshop will enable GIABA and the development partners to determine the kind of technical assistance needed by the country for improving its AML/CTF measures.
In addition, this exercise provides the international community with data on the country’s financial, legal and governance frameworks, and thus creates a platform for the country to attract foreign direct investment. Thus, the country is required to be committed to this process in order to ensure its success.
Meanwhile, the workshop will climax on Friday, August 6, 2021.