The Inter-governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) early last August in training some selected journalists from the region reechoed the need for West Africa to deepen its commitments and efforts in the fight against activities underlying Money Laundering (ML) and Terrorist Financing (TF).
That needed, an all-inclusive effort is also primarily required to combat the menace of ML across the region.
Meanwhile, there have been several calls from heads of states, ministers and other stakeholders across the region for an end to money laundering. Here in Ghana, there has been to some extent a political commitment and leadership roles in the fight against ML and TF.
BUT IS THAT ENOUGH????
Leaders across the region cannot be left to handle the issue alone. There must be a consensus on the issue and a conscious effort by all to serve as checks on others and ourselves for ML to be curbed if not eradicated.
The United Nations (UN) defines ML as the conversion of the true nature of a property, knowing that such property or part thereof is derived from a criminal activity, or of assisting any person who is involved in the commission of such offence or offences to evade the legal consequences of his or her actions.
It is also defined in simple terms as the washing of dirty money to make it appear clean.
Currently, the world is suffering from acts of organised and crossed border crimes, particularly drug trafficking, arms trafficking and illegal wildlife trafficking, all of which fuel violence and terrorism.
These organised crimes have over the years proven not to know any border and as much as all nations must cooperate to address it, everyone is needed on board to effectively play a role in their own spaces in order to eradicate or curb the menace.
Strengthening political commitments and leadership roles in the fight against ML and TF; establishing early warning mechanisms for the prevention of terrorism among others to enable robust implementation of the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime may still not be enough unless we all get involved.
We all need to be cautious of ML activities to avert falling victims to its consequences.
Not being cautious as a country or Africans has the tendency to deprive the region of a robust economic system, frustrate developmental activities, prevent investor relations and threaten the peace and security of every human existence.
According to Business DIT, a business research site, the estimated amount of money laundered globally in a year is two to five per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or $800 billion to $2 trillion.
It said 90 per cent of the money laundered goes undetected; 69.8 per cent of money launderers had little or no prior criminal history; Anti-money laundering activities recover only 0.1 per cent of criminal funds while by 2025, the anti-money laundering software market is projected to reach $2.77 billion.
According to the ML Offense Report, there was about $227.8 million ML in the USA in 2020.
Marija Lazic in her study on 27 Informative ML Statistics in 2022 indicated that, Cryptocurrency is becoming one of the many destinations of illicit funds from criminals. In 2019 alone, Chainalysis traced a total of $2.8 billion in Bitcoin moved by criminals.
In the fiscal year 2019, the United States Sentencing Commission reported that as many as 91.1 per cent of those accused of money laundering were imprisoned, with an average length of 70 months sentencing.
In 2021, the Risk Index Score of ML and TF in Ghana stood at 4.88, slightly below the score registered in the previous year. The risk of ML and TF is measured by using several indicators such as rule of law and financial regulations.
Ghana has demonstrated a significant improvement in the field, ranking 69 out of 110 countries in 2021. By comparison, in 2012, the nation placed 53rd in the world, representing an elevated score and, consequently, a higher risk.
Mr Seth Nana Amoako, Head of Compliance, Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), Ghana, at a Media Capacity-Building Workshop organised by the Centre in Accra on Thursday, July 7, 2022 explained that serious offences including fraud, cybercrime, tax evasion, bribery and corruption, among others were unlawful activities that underlie ML and were generally motivated by profits.
He defined TF as “the collection or provision or attempted collection or provision, by any means, directly or indirectly of funds with the intention that they should be used or in the knowledge that they are to be used in whole or in part to carry out a terrorist act.”
Mr Amoako indicated that anyone could be used as a conduit in one way or the other, depending on the scale of occurrence and the goal of the terrorists.
He stated that roles people could play (sometimes unknowingly) included donating to unsuspecting charitable organisations or non-profit organisations and raising funds.
Mr Amoako, therefore, stressed the need for persons in doubt of others’ financial actions to ask questions and if suspicious, report the suspicious activity in order to create a safe and better Ghana/world.
“This is a step in the right direction as we all have to be circumspect of suspicious financial activities. An attitude of querying the sources of monies of persons, particularly those who want us to be third parties or intermediaries must be adopted,” he emphasised.
FIC Ghana- FIC Ghana is a body corporate set up by the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2020 (Act 1044) to request, receive, analyse, interpret and disseminate information concerning suspected proceeds of crime and terrorist property.
THE JOURNALISTIC ROLE
GIABA Communication Manager, Information Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, Mr Timothy Melaye, at GIABA’s training for journalists in August, last year, said there was the need for the media to learn and acquire deep knowledge of issues in AML/CFT.
“Journalists must deploy their advocacy skills in agenda setting, influencing policies, and exposing ills in society as well work with and within an established network,” he added.
Mr Melaye stressed that GIABA was leading a great behavioural change campaign, which she could not do alone, “therefore our hands, your hands and their hands and their hands are required.”
“Working together, we can win the battle. We can change our world. Yes we can,” he added.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority of Heads of State and Government in the year 2000 established GIABA as a specialised institution responsible for strengthening the capacity of member states towards the prevention and control of ML and TF in the region established GIABA.
GIABA Apart from member states, GIABA grants Observer Status to African and non-African States, as well as Inter-Governmental Organizations that support its objectives and actions and which have applied for observer status.
BY ABIGAIL ARTHUR
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