Liberia: GIABA Wants Religious Leaders Join Fight against Money Laundering

GIABA Director General, Edwin W. Harris

— Holds sensitization awareness campaign today

The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) is expected to begin a two-day national dialogue for the religious community in Liberia.

GIABA is a specialized institution of ECOWAS that is responsible for the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorist financing in the sub-region.

The dialogue, organized and supported by GIABA, will bring together Christian and Muslim leaders and is aimed at raising the awareness level of religious leaders on the ills of money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF), their vulnerabilities to these scourges, and their role in the fight against them.

With the goal of reducing violent extremism and fostering peaceful coexistence in society, this involvement will aid in the development of strong ties with faith-based organizations (FBOs). It will be held from August 9th to 10th at a resort in Monrovia.

GIABA Director General, Edwin W. Harris, made the disclosure last evening at the Robert International Airport (RIA) upon his arrival and told journalists that it is important for prominent and religious leaders to join this fight.

He stated that the seminars will provide an excellent opportunity to raise religious leaders’ awareness of their role in AML/CFT and regional initiatives, particularly the mandate of GIABA, and to agree on actionable points to promote coexistence in particular and, in general, AML/CFT efforts.

Harris, who is an immediate former Director General of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Liberia, said the two-day seminar is in line with the recommendation of the Council of Ministers and in its continuous efforts to ensure member states implement effective AML/CFT framework towards protecting the national economies from the proceeds of crime.

According to him, when Liberia conducted its risk assessment, corruption was one of the most prevalent offenses.

“We have an instance where most of these people that go to church or mosque, some of them are involved in the practices of corruption,” he said. “So it is time now for our leaders to understand and have a lengthy conversation with their congregations on the fight against corruption, money laundering, and terrorist financing.

He pointed out that crimes have assumed transnational dimensions and have become a global phenomenon, thus resulting in sophisticated transnational organized crime syndicates perpetrating crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, and the like.

“So, today we want to dialogue and listen to our religious leaders on how they can join in the fight against money laundering, terrorism and to assist our region, not only in Liberia, because the ECOWAS region’s hope is for safety, stability and security, where peace can reign and that will bring in development. In the midst of the scourge of terrorism and its antecedents, it makes it difficult,” said Harris.

He further indicated that religious and faith-based organizations should use their various platforms to preach on the social implications of corruption and other economic and financial crimes in Liberia.

“Our region is playing with terrorism. Though you may not see it much in Liberia, we are talking about Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Mali, and Niger. We believe that religious leaders play a major role,” Harris cautioned. 

“And we want them to assist in the fight against terrorist financing. We have been conducting a series of seminars and this is Liberia’s time. So, for the next two days, we will be dealing with religious leaders from all areas of the country of the Christian and Muslim faiths.”