The Commonwealth is creating new resources to help judges and prosecutors confiscate and recover stolen assets in money laundering and financing of terrorism.
The development of a Commonwealth’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) / Countering the Financing of Terrorist (CFT) toolkit was announced at a workshop for Caribbean judges and prosecutors in Guyana.
Dominican judge, Birnie Stephenson, described the workshop as an “extremely useful experience”. “It is necessary”, she said, “for some of us as judges to be exposed to the learning in the areas of money laundering, asset confiscation, restraint orders, generally, proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.”
Jamaica’s director of public prosecution, Paula Llewellyn, added, “The whole issue of AML/CFT financing is a very critical and important matter. All our states have to make sure that we step up to the plate in terms of embracing and implementing the protocols of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).”
Judge Brian Cottle from St. Vincent and the Grenadines also highlighted the importance of the initiative to his country. “We have difficulty with the drug trade and the proceeds of criminal conduct generally, so this workshop has been particularly important to us, because it gives us added information and more tools to help us to combat those crimes which plague us and to address the real problem of taking away from the criminals the ill-gotten gains of their criminal activities.”
Organised by CFATF, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the workshop aimed to help countries prepare for a FATF assessment of the compliance and effectiveness of their laws, regulations and measures to tackle financial crimes.
Commonwealth legal adviser, Shadrach Haruna, said the Commonwealth is committed to ongoing training for judges and prosecutors.
“This workshop came at a critical time for countries in the Caribbean, as they prepare for important AML/CFT compliance assessments. Their ratings on this assessment can have far reaching impacts on areas such as foreign investment.
“From all the feedback we have had, the judges and prosecutors left the workshop armed with new approaches to stopping crooks who attempt to rob their countries of valuable resources, and ensuring that any stolen assets are recovered. They returned home with the tools to review and strengthen their own legislations, and the Secretariat will be working with CFATF and FATF to assist them with this process.”
The workshop also focussed on the role of prosecutors and the judiciary in preventing terrorism, terrorist financing and violent extremism.
Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat CVE Unit, Mark Albon stressed the importance of recognising the links between financial crimes and violent extremism. “If we are able to cut off the flow of funding, overwhelmingly generated by illegal activities, we will make significant progress towards effectively crippling the efforts of violent extremists to spread their ideology of hate and to prey upon the vulnerable members of our societies.
“In addition, by confiscating the proceeds of crime and corruption we also enable countries to generate additional funding to support the needs of society, which in itself serves as a bulwark against extremist narratives.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has pledged to work with the region to address the range of concerns around AML/CFT management. In the margins of the workshop she signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to improve cooperation on a range of areas including, crime and security, climate change, the economy, youth and justice reform.
While in Guyana, the Secretary-General also signed an agreement with the CARICOM Development Foundation (CDF). The collaboration will help focus on critical areas such as increasing access to concessional financing for small and medium business, and helping countries in the region to move towards renewable energy based economies.