Guyana described as transit country for cocaine

Drug route

WASHINGTON- The United States has described Guyana as a transit country for South American cocaine destined for Europe, West Africa, the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.

It said cocaine is concealed in legitimate commodities and smuggled via commercial maritime vessels, air transport, human couriers, or the postal services.

Washington said Guyana’s National Risk Assessment 2017 found that it has a medium-to-high money laundering risk.

“Unregulated currency exchange houses and dealers in precious metals and stones pose a risk to Guyana’s AML/CFT system. Other sectoral vulnerabilities include the banking industry and unregulated attorneys, real estate agents, used car dealers, and charities,” the US State Department said, noting that Guyana has made significant progress on the anti-money laundering (AML) front, but more investigations and successful prosecutions are needed.

It said historically, the primary sources of laundered funds are narcotics trafficking and real estate fraud. However, other illicit activities, including human trafficking, gold smuggling, contraband, and tax evasion, are also sources.

Washington, in its 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, said that the licensing policies and procedures of Guyana’s unsophisticated banking and financial institutions increase the risk of drug money laundering.

“Guyana does not have free zones (FTZs), offshore financial centres, cyber currencies, or economic citizenship programmes. Guyana, however, permits gaming — a gaming authority regulates and supervises all gaming activities.

“Common money laundering typologies include large cash deposits using fake agreements of sale for non-existing precious minerals, cross-border transport of concealed precious metals to avoid payment of the relevant taxes and duties, and wire transfer fraud using compromised email accounts.”

The State Department said that the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act 2009, Interception of Communications Act 2008, and Criminal Law Procedure Act serve as Guyana’s primary AML legislative regime.

It said Guyana has strong legislation relating to money laundering, and its AML legislation covers legal individuals and provides enhanced due diligence for politically exposed persons.

But Guyana lacks standardised provisions for secure electronic communications and transactions.

The Government also lacks a national strategic plan for combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

The State Department noted that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) applied for Egmont Group membership in 2011 and, in 2012, received two sponsors. The application is still pending due to amended sponsor requirements. It said Guyana is working with regional representatives to identify new sponsors who meet the requirements.

The FIU referred 21 cases to the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit, Special Organised Crimes Unit (SOCU), for investigation in 2018.

SOCU launched investigations into these and other reports of suspicious transactions, but there have not been any convictions to date.

“Guyana has shown strong political will to combat money laundering and has made progress on the AML front. The government still needs to train the judiciary on matters pertaining to the investigation and prosecution of financial crimes.

“A national strategic plan for combating money laundering should be developed and implemented, and legislation enacted for the facilitation and regulation of secure electronic communications and transactions. Reporting and investigating entities should also improve their inter-agency coordination, and the GRA (Guyana Revenue Authority) should report suspicious transactions to SOCU and SARA (State Assets Recovery Agency),” the State Department reported