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Probe, punish persons behind money laundering blacklisting - Minority Leader requests Parliament

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
Mr Haruna Iddrisu

The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, has requested Parliament to task the Finance and Foreign Affairs committees of the Legislature to probe individuals whose actions contributed to the European Union (EU) blacklisting Ghana for failing to comply with money laundering and terrorism financing regulations.

He said the probe by the two committees would help identify and punish the persons who caused Ghana to be placed on a blacklist of 22 African countries.

“For now we may not be suffering any sanctions for being on the blacklist but it has consequences on our ease of doing business and attracting foreign direct investment into the country,” he said.

Political will

Making a motion on the Anti-Money Laundering Bill, 2020 on the floor of Parliament yesterday, Mr Iddrisu said there should be political will on the part of Parliament to tackle and address the country’s blacklisting status.

“If we have an anti-money laundering regime which makes it criminal to engage in money laundering, how come that Ghana has been blacklisted and yet nobody has been punished by the authorities?

“Moreover, we are told that the foreign, business and retention accounts of our embassy in Brussels were closed. Mr Speaker, I think in exercising its oversight responsibilities, the Finance Committee of Parliament ought to have taken particular interest in this matter of Ghana being placed on a blacklist and probed to know why the EU took that decision,” he said.

Bill

The bill was presented to Parliament and read for the first time on November 5, this year for amendment and consolidation of the laws relating to money laundering and related matters.

It aims at addressing strategic deficiencies, amend all relevant laws and enact other enforceable measures meant to deal with the issues of money laundering.

Take interest

Mr Iddrisu said money laundering was a crime, yet in spite of having been blacklisted by the EU, which is Ghana’s  largest trading partner, no individual has been punished for actions that contributed to our being boycotted.

He expressed worry, particularly, that the Finance Committee did not take particular interest in the matter nor probed to know the reason for Ghana’s presence on the EU blacklist.

“Mr Speaker, there is a relationship between money laundering and corruption and between money laundering, economic crime and draft, as well as between money laundering and financing of terrorism and so it is not a position to be desired by the country,” he added.

Inadequate institutional arrangements

Responding to the concerns by the Minority Leader, a Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Kwaku Kwarteng, gave an assurance that the suggestions by the Minority Leader would be incorporated in the implementation of the bill.

He, however, told the House that the mutual evaluation review that was done prior to Ghana being blacklisted was done in 2016 during the administration of former President John Dramani Mahama.

He described the suggestion by the Minority Leader that the EU blacklisting Ghana was a reflection of some criminal conduct as unfair to his own colleagues in the then NDC government.

In his view, the gaps that were identified in the review did not relate to crimes committed, but rather, associated with inadequate institutional arrangements for combating money laundering.

"The Minority Leader must apologise to his colleagues in the NDC administration for suggesting that they may have committed some crime and that this administration should be prosecuting them. You just do not do that,” he said.

He assured the House that the Finance Ministry had worked out an action plan to address the deficiency the current government inherited from the previous one.

Background

Ghana is among a list of 22 states set to be blacklisted by the European Union (EU) effective October 2020.

The European Commission, in May this year, highlighted Panama, the Bahamas, Mauritius, Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe as part of countries that “pose significant threats to the financial system of the Union” because of failings in tackling money laundering and terrorism financing.

As a result, banks and other financial and tax firms will be obliged to scrutinise more closely, their clients who have dealings with these countries.

Additionally, companies in the named countries are also banned from receiving new EU funding with effect from October 2020.