The head of Liberia’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Alex Cuffy has challenged the Legislature to support anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) initiatives in Liberia.
He called on lawmakers to enact AML/CFT laws and provide resources for sectoral stakeholders through budgetary appropriations and legislative representation or advocacy.
Cuffy was speaking on the “role of the legislature in combating illicit financial flows (IFFs) in Liberia” during the regular session of the House of Representatives.
It followed a letter from Grand Bassa County District #5 Representative Thomas A. Goshua, II to plenary to invite the FIU to shed light on its work. Representative Goshua recently attended a parliamentarian forum on how to support the fight against IFFs and AML/CFT initiatives in Abuja, Nigeria.
Cuffy encouraged the legislature to hold AML/CFT entities accountable for the performance of their duties through legislative oversight.
“If I am doing my work, the legislative branch or House of Representatives has the powers to check on me. You are also admonished to attend some of these AML/CFT workshops, conferences and forums so that you can be better acquainted with these things,” he told plenary on May 3, 2018.
Successes of the FIU
Cuffy told lawmakers that the FIU has improved the negative reputation of Liberia with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), since its creation by a 2012 act (approved on April 30, 2013 and published in handbills on May 2, 2013) as the national agency responsible for receiving, requesting, conducting preliminary investigations, analyzing and disseminating information to competent authority concerning suspected proceeds of crime and terrorist property,.
The FIU’s vision is to build a well-equipped unit dedicated to an effective AML/CFT regime and protect Liberia’s financial system from abuse of financial and economic crime for the enhancement of national, regional and global peace and economic stability.
There are 21 predicate offenses for or linked to money laundering, participation in an organized criminal group and racketeering, terrorism, including terrorist financing, trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling, sexual exploitation, including sexual exploitation of children, illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, illicit arms trafficking, illicit trafficking in stolen and other goods, corruption and bribery, fraud, counterfeiting currency, counterfeiting and piracy of products, environmental crime, murder and grievous bodily injury, kidnapping, illegal restraint and hostage-taking, robbery or theft, smuggling, extortion, forgery, insider trading and market manipulation and tax evasion.
Cuffy said the FIU is assisting Liberia maintain and upgrade its standing with international bodies, including FATF and Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA).
He said the FIU is improving on its investigation and prosecution of financial crimes to assist in increasing revenues for the government.
“A country which, over the number of years that has AML/CFT measures in place and have not had even a case of money laundering or an indictment of money laundering and a guilty plea or guilty verdict and confiscation of property to the state, then you are not doing well.
“We have not achieved one confiscation yet but we are assisting law enforcement to do that. Hopefully this year, we should succeed with three indictments. That’s our target. We are also working with the revenue agency in increasing revenues because there are eyes that we have that they don’t have,” he stressed.
Challenges of the FIU
One of the major challenges facing the FIU, according to Cuffy, is the limited political will, which was recently hindered by the constitutional change of government.
“All the ministers were changed. So the ministers and everybody, like what we are doing here now, are not aware of these issues because they have to be brought to your attention. So if you don’t know, you don’t act. And if you don’t act, political will is not there. Do you intend to do? Yes, you intend to do but you don’t know how to,” he said.
Cuffy named delays/refusals to provide information & data when requested by law, unavailability of databases, weak information technology infrastructure & equipment and inadequate budgetary support and provision of funds as some of the challenges confronting the FIU. Beginning June, he said, the FIU intends to carry on massive awareness exercises on AML/CFT initiatives.