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SOCU protocols threaten Guyana’s FATF standing

first_img… AG’s boastful prediction, an exhibition of misplaced optimism – NandlallThe protocols of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) could very well threaten Guyana’s conformity with the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) and Attorney General Basil Williams’ bold and boastful prediction that Guyana will soon exit the review process may be an exhibition of misplaced optimism.Attorney General Basil WilliamsThis is the view held by Williams’ predecessor, Anil Nandlall who has since observed since the release of the SOCU protocols that “currently, we do not have a Special Crime Unit which exclusively investigates Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) offences as is required by the FATF recommendations.The SOCU protocols, according to the former Legal Affairs Minister came in the form of an expansion to Guyana Police Force Standing Orders and “confirm that SOCU will remain in the Force under the superintendence of the Commissioner of Police.”According to Nandlall, a natural consequence is that its officers will be subject to the same regime of scrutiny oversight and functional autonomy that apply to the Force.He said too that these protocols expand the mandate and the scope of SOCU outside and beyond its original mandate, which was, “the investigation of offences created by the AML/CFT legislation.”SOCU, according to its protocols, now has the mandate to investigate murder, piracy, environmental offences and a whole host of offences which are not “organized” crimes.According to Nandlall, “I have no doubt that these protocols would have been deliberated at and approved Cabinet, which would have included Attorney General Basil Williams.”As such, Nandlall recalls that over the last year, “I had cause to explain in the press, ad nauseam, that the creation of a Specialized Crime Unit to investigate solely and exclusively AML/CFT offences was a specific recommendation of FATF.”According to Nandlall “I warned that using SOCU to investigate any other offences may violate the relevant FATF recommendations. I was ignored. The Government has done worse.”He said what government has instead done is to institutionally expand the scope of SOCU to investigate offences far and beyond AML/CFT offences: “So, currently, we do not have a Special Crime Unit which exclusively investigates AML/CFT offences as is required by the FATF recommendations.”He said too that in preparation for the FATF site visit to Guyana, the Attorney General must have now discovered, after 15 months, the FATF recommendations which require the establishment of this Unit to investigate only AML/CFT offences.According to Nandlall: “With no Special Organised Unit in place to treat only with AML/CFT offences and in the absence of the unwarranted, bureaucratic and top-heavy 20-person AML/CFT authority which this Government unnecessarily and on its own volition imposed on Guyana’s AML/CFT apparatus, the Attorney General’s bold and boastful prediction that Guyana will soon exit the review process may be an exhibition of misplaced optimism.”This past week Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo blasted the decision to expand the SOCU mandate: “This is a Special Organised Crime Unit, it can’t do 21 things, it has to go back to its core functions, which was [fighting] money laundering and terrorism. There are other places in the Police Force where they deal with piracy, smuggling, fraud, murder… you have the CID or environmental crimes and counterfeiting of products, that’s not for SOCU,” the Opposition Leader declared.last_img read more