By: Jerromie S. Walters
Liberia: The Director General of the Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia, Mr. Edwin W. Harris, has expressed frustration in what he termed as the ‘unseriousness’ of some cabinet members of the George Weah administration, to meet up with their statutory responsibilities.
Mr. Harris made the disclosure recently at the Ministry of Information regular press conference.
“I’m little bit frustrated, why they are not taking their statutory function seriously, especially knowing the impact it will have on the country if they continue staying back like the way they are stay back, so if we love the country, we must put ourselves together because at this time and in this space we are the ones who the President has seen faith in to lead, so we should lead, it’s part of our function so if you ask me if I’m frustrated, I am,” he lamented.
Mr. Harris frustration comes directly in relations to the reluctancy and ineffectiveness of the Central Bank of Liberia, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Ministry of Mines and Energy, National Lottery, in reporting financial services which is major in aiding the development of an action plan, which will help in mitigating the risk that was identified during the national risk assessment, on Liberia’s status of money laundering.
In 2019, Liberia, through the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) conducted the national risk assessment on money laundering and terrorist financing for the first time and the results provided that Liberia’s money laundering risk is high.
Following the report, the FIU Boss said his entity along with other stakeholders worked jointly through strategizing a three year action plan, in combating the high risk of money laundering, identified during the national risk assessment.
However, the action plan which is expected to be used from 2022 to 2025 as disclosed by Mr. Edwin Harris, requires reports from all financial or critical Ministries and Entities of government.
The FIU Boss however called on the various ministries and entities which he said have a major role to play, to act effectively else, it will create a huge problem for their regime if they stay away.
“I want to use this medium to call on everyone, especially the Central Bank of Liberia that is the biggest supervisory body, because they supervise all of the banks, all of the insurance companies and these financial services like TipMe, it is time that they man up to their responsibilities and join this process because this process in the end if it goes wrong, they will be affected more then everybody,” Mr Harris noted.
He further continued, “I want to call on our big brother, the governor Aloysius Tarlue to seek this process because this governor has worked in compliance so it becomes very much surprised to see his inaction, and his inaction is causing challenges and setback into the process”.
He expressed hope that the governor in the coming days will address his responsibility, through effectuating not just financial resources, but human resources into the process, as he has served the governor several letters which have never been acknowledged, nor acted upon.
Howbeit, it appears even more frustrating as on Wednesday June 22, 2022, the Minister of justice who is the Chair of the inter ministerial committee, will officially launch the action plan strategy that will be used to tackle the risk highlighted during the assessment, but reports from the highlighted ministries and entities are yet to be provided.
The FIU Director General believed if one takes upon a responsibility in Liberia’s governing system, they are not only limited to the specific office he or she was appointed, but to other functions and statutory mandates within said agency.
Moreover, it has even been more challenging for the FIU as an entity with less than 60 staffs, to conduct research for the various institutions, compile their reports, and provide answers for technical compliance questions which takes about four hours per question, even though they are always task with their very own responsibilities.
“We have not seen these people, we are concerned because if we don’t participate, it’s going to cause problem for us, for example if I just walk the street and just ask anybody please show me road map and precious stone, they know nothing about money laundering torrist financing and the impact, they don’t know, how do they know when the Minister of Mines and Energy refuse to come to the process? We have sent a lot if communications to him, I’m speaking a little bit frustrated about the process because people don’t want to take responsibility seriously and I want to call upon them,” he stressed.
The FIU Boss also disclosed that a communication has been forwarded to the office of the President, in order to encourage his cabinet members to take responsibility as the process is not an exclusive FIU process and they are not capacitated to pay their staffs for additional working hours.
The national risk assessment considered Liberia status in Corruption and bribery, illicit trafficking in narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances, robbery and theft, tax evasion, trafficking in human beings, and migrants smuggling, counterfeiting and piracy of products, currency counterfeiting, terrorism, and terrorist financing.
Reports from the assessment however rated Corruption and bribery, illicit trafficking in narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances, tax evasion, trafficking in human beings, and migrants smuggling, currency counterfeiting as being high in Liberia.
It however set robbery/theft, and counterfeiting and piracy of products at a medium risk, while terrorism, including terrorist financing was rated low in terms of occurancce in Liberia.
The Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia (FIU), established as an autonomous agency of the Government of Liberia (GOL) by the Act of the National Legislature in 2012 (FIU Act, 2012 approved on April 30, 2013 and published on May 2, 2013), is the central, national agency of Liberia responsible for receiving, requesting, conducting preliminary investigations, analyzing and disseminating information to competent authority concerning suspected proceeds of crime and terrorist property.
The FIU vision to build a well-equipped Unit dedicated to an effective Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism [AML/CFT] regime in Liberia. The FIU seeks to protect Liberia financial system from abuse of financial and economic crime for the enhancement of national, regional and global peace and economic stability.