By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
The Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia (FIUL) has begun engaging employees of the Bureau of Customs as well as the Anti Money Laundering Unit at the Central Bank of Liberia to strategize ways in maintaining stability in the government’s financial systems.
At a consultative session held at the newly established offices of the FIUL yesterday with some of its relevant supervisory authorities, the management team headed by Alexander Duopu said the FIUL is committed to strengthening its authority to actively investigate and take actions to prevent money laundering and combat terrorist-financing.
Mr. Duopu said the consultation is basically to create the awareness that the FIUL will be collaborating with reporting institutions and other stakeholders to enhance their awareness on Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT).
He explained how the FIUL will contribute to the regional and international effort to combat money laundering and terrorist-financing through the exchange of information with various counterparts with the aim of further strengthening the regulatory framework in line with best practices on AML/CFT.
Officer-in-Charge, Duopu commended the efforts of the Board of Directors of the FIUL that is currently chaired by Charles Sirleaf in setting up the management team and igniting its mandate as he injected that the recruitment and recommendation of a Director General to the President for appointment will also add boost to the efforts of the Unit in ensuring that Liberia remains compliant with international standards.
However, he said the challenging task is in view of the advancement of technology especially in the financial service industry which has made it easier for criminals and terrorists to take advantage of liberalizing financial markets, innovative technologies and the ease with which cross border flows of financial transactions could take place.
Money laundering has adverse consequences both socially and economically as it promotes criminal activities, tarnish the integrity of the financial system thereby endangering its stability and misallocate resources into unproductive investments.
In sharing their experiences as it relates to countering money laundering, the invited supervisory authorities comprised of members of the Bureau of Customs and Anti Money Laundering said no tax payer is exact with the agents therefore issuance of forms by Customs will limit its personnel search.
They observed that smuggling is an organized crime and as Liberia stands, anything can enter the country thereby quantifying the challenges to the lack of intelligence exchange, local security network, human factor and serious awareness on the risk involved.
They explained how the Bureau of Customs has been carrying out its mandate in line with the World Customs Organizations (WCO) and therefore can do nothing out of its framework. They said in as much as Customs is looking for something far different from what the FIUL mandates, it will work closely in ensuring that the goals of stabilizing government’s financial system is maintained in line with international standards.
Meanwhile, as the regional body compares Liberia to be in compliance with protocols and policies, the FIUL has also earmarked a three-week training exercise to be conducted with all relevant supervisory authorities in order to connect its server to all reporting entities.
The FIUL is a specialized autonomous and independent agency created by an Act of Legislation to serve as interference between its financial sector and law enforcement agencies for the collection, analyzing and dissemination of information aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist-financing.
Its establishment is in line with the Palermo Convention of Article 7. 1b which is also known as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Crimes requiring each member state to consider the establishment of an FIU as well as the Financial Action Task Force established by the G7 nations under its 40+9 recommendations serving as policy making body.