The Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia (FIU) has levied fines of L$21 million against all insurance companies operating in the country for non-compliance, violations, and obstruction.
According to the FIU, Insurance companies fined are: Accident and General Life Insurance Company, American Underwriters Group, Accidental and Casualty Insurance Company, Activia Insurance Company, Blue Cross Insurance Company, Insurance Company of Africa, Mutual Benefits Assurance Company, and Medicare Insurance Company.
Others include Omega Group of Company Limited, Palm Insurance Company, SAAR Insurance Company, SUNU Insurance Company, Secure Risk Insurance Company, and Sky Insurance Company.
Disclosing on Wednesday, February 2, 2022, at a news conference in Monrovia, FIU Director General Edwin W. Harris said that insurance companies have refused and failed to file both currency transactions and suspicious transaction reports in violation of section 67.4.1,67.5 of the 2012 Financial Intelligence Unit Act and both section 2. 4 of the regulations on Currency and Suspicious Transaction reports and unlawfully exempted themselves.
According to him, the unlawful exemption is taken by these insurance companies and their refusal to file impedes one of the core functions of the FIU to collect, analyze and disseminate useful information to Law Enforcement and Competent Authorities under section 67.3(a).
"The inaction or willful blindness of the insurance companies amounted to obstruction of lawful investigation which in itself is criminal under the laws of Liberia," Director Harris added.
He further explained that each of the above listed was fined the amount of L$1.5 million for Unlawful Exemption and Failure/ Declines to File in Keeping with the regulations on both Currency Transaction Report and Suspicious Reports.
Director Harris stated that the FIU will take additional actions to include the recommendations for suspension of operating license and publicly designating the entity as a high-risk entity due to non-compliance to Anti Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and financing the proliferation of the weapon of mass destruction regulations.
He said, "All fines are to be paid in the FIU Transitory Account held at the Central Bank of Liberia within 72 hours."
At the same time, the FIU boss who also spoke on the Prosecution of Kolane Investment Limited Liability Liberia said they welcomed the indictment of Kolane Investment Limited Liability Liberia and Sundry.
He added that as executive director of the FIU, it is their anticipated goal to see prosecutors push for speedy trial in bringing to a legal conclusion the above-mentioned case.
In the same vein, Director Harris calls on the Government to make funding available to prosecutors as they pursue the case to its legal conclusion.
He said, "The FIU renewed its call for the Liberia Business Registry to make null and void the business certificate and registration of Korlane Investment Limited Liability that was established as a front company."
The year 2022 commences the Mutual Evaluation of Liberia's Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism regime. Liberia will be evaluated on Technical Compliance and Effective Compliance by Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a specialized Agency of the ECOWAS.
According to the FIU, director, Liberia's preparation is on a slow pace and calls on all stakeholders to double their collective efforts in having a good score, as the contrary will not be in the best interest of the country’s image and investment climate.
"It is against this background, we call on the National Government to make the requisite funding available to enable the Liberia Working Group on Mutual Evaluation to carry out its activities without hindrance due to the lack of funding," he said.
In addressing the risks identified in the National Risk Assessment on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in Liberia, the Financial Intelligence Unit and all stakeholders have completed an Anti-Money Laundering Strategy and Action Plan to address all of the risks over the next five years.
Upon the approval of the Strategy and Action Plan by the Inter-Ministerial Committee, the FIU will officially launch the Strategy and Plan in Monrovia in early March 2022.
The FIU, Director Harris added, calls on the Liberian Senate to consider the Anti–Money Laundering Law and the Financial Intelligence Agency Act as both instruments will play a key role in the mutual evaluations.
He urged, on behalf of the FIU, that the Senate look at the original instruments given as concurring with the House version will not serve the purpose for mutual evaluation and it will need to go for amendment.
Also, the FIU wants other bills such as the amendments to the penal code criminalizing market manipulation, inside trading pass, as all of the above are objects for the mutual evaluation upon which Liberia could suffer a setback if not passed on time.