By MUHAMMED S. BAH & AMIE SANNEH
Dr. Bruno Nduka, Director of Programs and Projects of GIABA has disclosed that Money Laundering and terrorist financing is severely undermining sustainable development. He said it erode social and human capital, threaten social and political stability, causing an artificial rise in the cost of business and driving away investments.
Dr. Nduka was speaking yesterday, at a local hotel in Kololi during the opening of the first Open House Forum for youths on Money Laundering.
Organised by the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), the forum brought together young people from the media, various institutions, youth groups as well as other government officials and the security forces.
According to Dr. Nduka, the West Africa region is currently under serious threat from transnational organised crimes including money laundering and terrorist financing and the spate of terrorism and kidnapping is unprecedented. Dr. Nduka noted that the forum is designed to forster and strengthen partnership between GIABA and the youths in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing in the region.
Giving a brief overview of his institution, he said GIABA was established in December 2000, by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government. According to him, the establishment of GIABA is one of the main responses and contributions of ECOWAS towards the prevention and fight against money laundering and terrorist financing in the region.
In her opening statement, Mama Fatima Singhateh, Attorney General and Minister of Justice defined money laundering as the process of making the proceeds of crime appear to have legitimate origin. “The proceeds or wealth to be laundered can be generated from a number of criminal acts” said the Justice Minister.
According to her, money laundering in the past years was mainly associated with trafficking in drugs.
“Today, the designated categories of offences known as predicate offences are numerous and include, among others, illicit drug trafficking in drugs, sexual exploitation, trafficking in human beings, corruption and bribery, fraud, currency counterfeiting, and most recently tax evasion” she said.
Madam Singhateh noted that worldwide, money laundered annually is estimated to be between US$1.5 and US$3.3 Trillion, which is between 2-5% of the world’s GDP.
According to Madam Singhateh, a study was conducted by the African Development Bank and Global Financial integrity and it shows that Africa leads the rest of the developing world, having lost between US$1.2 and US$1.4 Trillion over 30 years period (1980-2009) through illicit financial flow.
The Justice Minister described money laundering and the financing of terrorism as financial crimes with significant negative economic effects. “They can threaten the stability of a country’s financial sector or undermine its political stability and development.” She said.
However, she said effective anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regimes are essential to protect the integrity of markets and the global financial system as they help mitigate the factors that facilitate financial abuse.
Justice Minister Singhateh stated that the Gambia has taken giant steps in the fight against Money laundering and Terrorism Financing in the country by enacting different legislations such as: the Anti Terrorism Act in 2002 followed by the Money Laundering Act 2003.
Madam Singhateh said the Gambia established the Financial Intelligence Unit as a government in fighting against money laundering, Terrorist financing and other criminal conducts.
She advised young people to do away from the ‘Get-Rich Quick’ syndrome so as to avoid being involved into dubious activities such as Money Laundering and Terrorism that can threaten their lives as well as the socio economic development of their countries.
“This Forum therefore , could not have come at a better time than now, this is because our youth deserve particular attention as they are increasingly becoming vulnerable to the commission of transnational crimes and as such there is the need to prevent them from failing prey to such crimes” she noted.
The Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit in the Gambia and GIABA national correspondent, Yaya Camara, said Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and their related offences pose serious threat to the existence of civilised societies. “Some youths, unfortunately are perpetrators of these crimes and often, they are victims of the negative consequences of these crimes,” Camara said.
He therefore stressed the need to raise awareness among youth on money laundering and terrorist financing and their attendant consequences so as to encourage them to take active role in the combat of these crimes.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Youth and Sports, Lamin Camara, Permanent Secretary, Finance Ministry, said the forum serves as a platform to educate youths on the harmful effects of money laundering and financing of terrorism on peace, security and sustainable development in West Africa.