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Concerted effort needed in anti-money laundering gains

BY: Daily Graphic
FLASHBACK: Ghana removed from EU money laundering list
FLASHBACK: Ghana removed from EU money laundering list

Ghana has been removed from the European Union’s (EU’s) “grey list” of high-risk third countries in money laundering activities, President Nana Akufo-Addo made the announcement in January this year.

The news is worthy of note and heartwarming because being on the list of countries with deficiencies in their anti-money laundering frameworks has implications of increased risk profile for the country.

Countries that have gained notoriety for allowing money laundering in their jurisdictions bear the brunt of negative credit ratings. They also suffer from adverse effects in international trade and investment, as well as increase in opportunistic crimes.

This is because money laundering and the financing of terrorism are financial crimes with economic effects that tarnish a country’s reputation and financial institutions.

Ghana faced this reputation risk when the European Commission (EC), on February 13, 2019, presented a list of 23 countries, including Ghana, which allegedly had strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing frameworks.

The government then, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, refuted the claim and described the blacklist as regrettable because the methodology used was flawed.

Again, in May 2020, the EC listed Ghana and 11 other countries as having loopholes in their anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism regimes, posing a threat to the EU's financial system.

The decision meant that financial transactions from Ghana entering the EU (and vice versa) were subjected to additional scrutiny to ensure they did not escape the "deficiencies" identified for the benefit of money launderers and terrorist financiers.

To provide context, money laundering is an underlying, primary, profit-making crime such as corruption, drug trafficking, market manipulation, fraud and tax evasion, along with the intent to conceal the proceeds of the crime or further the criminal enterprise.

These activities generate financial flows that involve the diversion of resources away from economically and socially productive uses, which has a negative impact on the financial sector and the external stability of a country. They also have a corrosive, corrupting effect on society and the economic system as a whole.

The Daily Graphic holds the view that the removal of Ghana from the EU’s “grey list” of high-risk third countries in money laundering activities should serve as a wake-up call for us to effectively implement and mitigate the adverse effects of criminal economic activity and promote integrity and stability in financial markets.

Over the period, the country has undertaken very significant legislative and institutional initiatives to bring it at par with other successful anti-money laundering and counter financial terrorism regimes.

We have established the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), with the mandate to receive, analyse and disseminate financial intelligence.

We have, as a country, also made efforts to establish and implement adequate measures for the confiscation of funds related to money laundering.

The feat of reversing the blacklisting in a very short time was due to the collaborative work among the various agencies, and this calls for concerted efforts to consolidate the gains.

We, therefore, call on the law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary to support the government in dealing with criminals in order to consolidate and build on the gains so far made.

For us at the Daily Graphic, now is the time to consolidate the gains, keep up the momentum and become a regional and global icon in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.

The amendment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2008 (Act 749), the passage of the Real Estate Agency Act, 2020 (Act 1047) and the adoption of a comprehensive policy on anti-money laundering are all necessary in this fight, and relevant stakeholders, such as players in the financial and the housing and real estate sectors, must be encouraged to implement them.

Together, let us strengthen the fight, win the war and purge our beloved country of acts of criminals.