THIS past year witnessed an increase in illicit financial transactions involving local banks despite efforts made by the government to curb the trend through establishment of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) three years ago.
Establishment of FIU was part of the 11 million dollar Millennium Challenge Account Threshold programme which also focused on strengthening the rule of law for good governance and curbing corruption in public procurement.
The government then passed new regulations to tackle money laundering and allow the FIU to trace suspicious movements of money through banks and other financial institutions in the country.
Under the new regulations, all banks and financial institutions are required to maintain proper records of key information regarding their customers so as to enable authorities to trace the occurrence of any dirty transactions.
This is a commendable initiative by the government because it is part of the effort to check money laundering which has been a cause for concern in the recent past.
We concur with the US Ambassador Alfonso Lenhardt who observed recently when opening a financial investigation technique training that “a healthy financial sector cannot exist without the implementation of controls to protect it from abuse.”
Indeed, illicit financial operations have in recent years become more sophisticated and complex, requiring traditional investigators to acquire new and specialized financial intelligence tools. It was for this reason that the FIU has been set up in the country.
But we think more needs to be done to ensure that the unit, whose mandate is to enforce the anti-money laundering legislation, is assisted to enable it become instrumental in tracking and seizing ill-gotten money in various institutions as well as among untrustworthy individuals.
The unit must be strengthened so as to help in investigations. All institutions and companies must also show co-operation by reporting on their pricing, taxes collected, logistics and other details to confirm or rule out information obtained in their transactions.
As we know, money launderers are known to work by manipulating illicitly-obtained financial proceeds in an endeavour to conceal or disguise the true nature, source, location, disposition and movement of those proceeds, with the ultimate objective of integrating the proceeds into and through the legitimate economy.
Analysts argue that those involved in the fight against money laundering and terrorist activity financing must have access to certain kinds of finance-related information in order to conduct effective investigations.
It is encouraging to learn that since the FIU became operational various commercial banks operating in the country have been requesting additional details from new clients wishing to open bank accounts.
We salute the important efforts the government has so far made in adopting anti-money laundering strategies.