Assembly approves amendments to laws to better address money laundering, financial crimes |03 March 2021
The National Assembly yesterday temporarily departed from its scrutiny of the different national budget allocations to urgently consider, discuss and approve amendments to four pieces of legislation relating to the fight against money laundering, terrorism financing and other financial crimes.
The aim of the amendments are to address different weaknesses and gaps in these laws identified through an evaluation report by different concerned international bodies namely the ESAAMLG (Eastern and Southern Africa Anti- Money Laundering Group) and FATF (Financial Action Task Force).
The different amendments are aimed at harmonising and strengthening Seychelles’ ability to better comply to different international norms, standards and requirements set by international organisations dealing with AML/CFT (Anti-Money laundering and Combating the financing of terrorism).
A strengthened legal framework to better safeguard its reputation and integrity internationally when it comes to dealing with money laundering and other financial crimes will also mean better compliance for Seychelles.
The Minister for Finance Naadir Hassan presented the four bills and the different amendments being proposed for Assembly consideration in accordance with Article 94 of the Constitution of Seychelles.
The four bills are the;
Extradition (Amendment) Bill, 2021 – Among the different challenges and weaknesses that the ESAAMLG identified in its ‘Mutual Evaluation’ report on Seychelles published in September 2018 is also the need to introduce a new sub section (4) in Section 17 of the Extradition law to have a register for extradition cases dealt with in Seychelles.
Minister Hassan noted that in line with FATF procedures the challenges and recommendations for Seychelles have to be addressed during the three years after the report has been published and submitted to the ESAAMLG as soon as possible.
Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill, 2021 – Among the different aims of the amendments to this piece of legislation is also the need to strengthen its supporting legislative framework.
Minister Hassan explained that recommendation 37 and 38 are related to ‘legal assistance in criminal cases’ and ‘legal assistance in criminal cases relating to confiscation’ respectively.
He further noted that recommendation 37 has eight criteria while recommendation 38 has four criteria which need to be met and satisfied.
To better address these challenges the proposed amendment provides for a redefinition of the term ‘criminal investigation’ when referring to offences under Section 3 of the AML/CFT, 2020.
New sub sections (5) to (9) are also being proposed in Section 6 of the ‘Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act’.
These will allow for any request that Seychelles receives from abroad to be addressed and carried out in a reasonable period of time, to register and manage requests, to broaden Section 153C of the Criminal Procedure Code so it will include addressing any property confiscation or any property with the same value and to allow for Seychelles to enter into agreement with other countries to share any property seized as a result of collaboration between Seychelles and other countries in the fight to eliminate money laundering, terrorism financing and other financial crimes.
Beneficial Ownership (Amendment) Bill, 2021 – Minister Hassan in his presentation explained that the ‘Beneficial Ownership’ law which came into effect in August 2020 addressed numerous weaknesses which were identified in the ‘Seychelles Mutual Evaluation Report’ 2018 as well as by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Global Forum on transparency and the exchange of information on taxation. This was aimed at improving the ‘Beneficial Ownership’ framework for ‘Legal Persons’ and ‘Legal Arrangements’ which are set up in our jurisdiction.
Section 18 of the law demands that all legal arrangements and entities conform with provisions of the law as of January 31, 2021. This include keeping a register for all ‘beneficial owners’ where their resident agencies are situated as well as to transfer these information to the ‘Beneficial Ownership Database’ to be kept and monitored by the Financial Intelligience Unit (FIU).
Minister Hassan highlighted that in implementing the law, the need to address other inconsistencies and weaknesses in other relating laws, more specifically to suit domestic businesses, was pointed out.
Amendment to Section 18 of the ‘Beneficial Ownership’ Act, will also give power to the minister to among other things allow for the publication into a regulation the date the section becomes operational and this is expected in May for the offshore sector and December for the domestic sector.
Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2021 – in his presentation on the Bill Minister Hassan said the AML/CFT), 2020 has addressed numerous weaknesses that were identified in the ‘Seychelles Mutual Evaluation Report’ 2018.
He noted that the report also pointed out that the Anti-Money laundering and Combatting the financing of terrorism framework in Seychelles as per the standard of the FATF, has gaps to be filled in
Forty recommendations, improvements are required in 20 other recommendations. Seychelles has managed to carry out improvements in three recommendations as per discussion in a meeting held in December 2020. The proposed amendments are expected to improve another 14 recommendations and these will be discussed and reviewed during a meeting to be held in September this year. As per the three other recommendations Seychelles will be able to request a re-rating in April 2022 based on the existing FATF procedures.
Minister Hassan said the amendments relate to some definitions in Section 2, Section 3 among many others to allow for Seychelles to conform to FATF and OECD standards.
Assembly members spent the whole of yesterday debating the different amendments, all of which were approved.
The Assembly resumes its sitting this morning.