New Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill (2020) | 03 March 2020
Assembly approves merits of the bill, debate continues
The National Assembly yesterday started deliberations on a new Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill (2020), being pushed forward by the Ministry of Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning.
All MNAs present approved the merits of the bill, after which they went into committee stage.
The new bill seeks to replace a similar law, which has been found deficient and which dates back to 2006.
Although the new bill had already been in the pipeline for implementation in order for Seychelles to meet international standards and gain a review and fairer rating from the ESAAMLG, the urgency for the bill to be passed is more pronounced now that Seychelles has been added to the European Union (EU) non-cooperative list.
Also to be debated on by the members of the National Assembly during this week is the Beneficial Ownership Bill (2020), which aims to provide for the identification and verification of beneficial ownership of legal entities and legal arrangements, and access to information by competent authorities and law enforcement authorities.
The two pieces of legislation, drafted by the National Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Committee seeks to improve the legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks in place in the jurisdiction for combating money laundering and terrorist and proliferation financing and the effectiveness of the measures, address the deficiencies highlighted in the National Risk Assessment (NRA) and the second Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) which was completed in 2018.
While presenting the AML/CFT Bill before the National Assembly yesterday, Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning Maurice Loustau-Lalanne explained that the new bill has several fundamental improvements to the present AML/CFT Act.
For instance, under the new legislation, the Financial Intelligence Unit’s (FIU) current roles will change. It will no longer fall under the auspices of the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) but rather will become an independent body which reports directly to the Ministry of Finance.
Meanwhile investigation in regards to AML/CFT will be conducted by the Seychelles Police Force.
Additionally, the new AML/CFT Act provides for the setting up of a national AML/CFT committee to ensure coordination between the institutions in Seychelles. The committee will include representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning, Financial Services Agency (FSA), FIU, Seychelles Revenue Commission (SRC), Anti-Corruption Commission, Seychelles Police Force and offices of the Registrar General and Attorney General.
The new bill also proposes the establishment of an Asset Recovery Fund, sanctions against entities which do not comply and grants the Ministry of Finance the ability to make regulations.
Reacting to the bill, Honourable Gervais Henrie, Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) member for Mont Buxton said: “The AML/CFT Act was introduced in 2006 and after then it seemed like the government allowed this industry to self regulate. We’ve had six ministers for finance, we have had various persons in charge of FSA, FIU but it seems that there was no political will to ensure that the offshore industry which is so important to us operates properly. I am hoping that, from this day forward, each of the parties involved remains engaged and in continuous discussions.”
On his part the leader of the opposition, Hon. Wavel Ramkalawan, called out “the hypocrisy” of some countries which introduced and participated in the offshore financial services and which are now seeking to blacklist Seychelles for its own.
“I believe that this industry is bringing in revenue into the country and when such is the case, we need to encourage this industry. We need to provide it with any necessary support[…]”, Hon. Ramkalawan said, adding that he will wholly support the bill in order for Seychelles to move forward.
Meanwhile United Seychelles (US) MNA Hon. Johan Loze highlighted the urgency for the National Assembly to approve the bill so that it can be assented and come into law.
Leader of government business, Charles De Commarmond, added: “The offshore sector is important for investments, developments and financial transactions […] however when it is not well regulated, this sector may impact on the corresponding banks which transacts with Seychelles. It is good that Seychellois are now getting more education in regards to this sector.”
“Through the interventions I have observed today, it seems like everyone is on board – the opposition, our own party, the sector itself and the regulators. The recent occurrence has shaken us and we have all come together to remove ourselves from the position France has placed us.”
Discussions regarding the AML/CFT Bill will continue today.