GIABA Schools Religious Leaders on combating Money Laundering

By Edward Vamboi

On the 9th and 10th February 2021 the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA)  organized a seminar  at the Radisson Blu Hotel  which was based on combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (ML/TF) in the region on the theme “National Sensitization Seminar for Religious Leaders and Institutions on Implementing AML/CFT Measures.

The Minister of Social Welfare, Hon. Baindu Dassama Kamara in her statement, which she dubbed as a goodwill message, disclosed that the responsibility of formulating and implementing all policies and programmes on religion in the country lie on her Ministry.

She stated that as the Cabinet Minister that is coordinating and monitoring the implementation of faith based activities, she would like to express her kind appreciation to the Inter-Government Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa for organizing such an educative programme that is geared towards strengthening the capacity of religious leaders in addressing current emerging issues that have huge devastating, political, economic and social consequences to their worshippers.

On her part, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr. Patricia N Laverley said it is an historic ceremony marking an engagement with the inter-faith bodies in the implementation of AML/CFT measures.

She said it is historic because it is the first time they are coming together as a nation on an inter-faith platform to discuss the way forward in putting in place modalities for the effective implementation of measures aimed at combating money laundering and terrorism financing.

She furthered that is evident in their realization that money laundering and terrorism financing are serious threats to national and international peace and stability which must be addressed in a holistic way.

The Deputy Minister said the Government, under the leadership of President Bio, is committed to supporting every endeavor aimed at protecting the integrity, credibility and viability of the financial system.

She revealed that since they assumed leadership of the country, the Government has provided increased support to the Financial Intelligence Unit to ensure that they are properly position to support law enforcement agencies as well as the private sector in the fight against ML/TF and associated predicate offences.

“We are comforted by the knowledge that we have been receiving technical Assistance from the United States Department of Treasury since 2017 and we are assured of their continued commitment to the development of the Sierra Leone’s anti-money laundering and counter-finance of terrorism regime,” she stated.

She said efforts made will result in a sanitized system thereby making the country conducive for businesses in general and attractive to Foreign Direct Investment further emphasizing that creating an effective and compliant anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism regime would better project the image of the country thereby making Sierra Leone more attractive on the international stage saying such will enhance the confidence of the country’s development partners.

She maintained that the Government is aware that the banking sector is an indispensable part of the economy and hence everything humanly possible must be done to protect that sector stating that moneylaundering and terrorism financing are two scourges that directly undermine not only the integrity but also the survival of  financial institutions.

“Therefore every effort directed at developing a robust and compliant AML/CFT regime is justifiable,” she underscored.

Director General of GIABA, Judge Kimelabalou Aba, stated that GIABA is a specialized institution of ECOWAS, as well as a regional body for West Africa.

According to him, it was established in the year 2000 by the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Government with the mandate to protect the economies of member States from the laundering of the proceeds of crimes and to combat terrorist financing.

He said GIBA undertakes its roles to ensure that member States comply with acceptable international stands on Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and combating financing of terrorism (CFT).

As an institution, he said, GIABA conducts mutual evaluations-a peer review mechanism for assessing the level of technical compliance and effectiveness of member States’ AML/CFT system with international standards.

According to him, GIABA also carries out valuable researches and typologies exercises to identify the various money laundering and terrorist financing trends and methods in order to strengthen preventive and enforcement actions like acting as a forum where members can discuss regional issues and share their experiences, coordinate and support members States in the implementation of AML/CFT systems and legislations, assisting  member States in establishing and strengthening stakeholder institutions, especially the Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).

He said the key reason why GIABA decided to invite eminent personalities to the seminar is to promote peaceful coexistence, ensure that  the voices of religious leaders are strongly heard against violent extremism, terrorism, corruption, human trafficking, kidnapping and economically-motivated crimes adding that their voices must not only be heard, but must be seen to lead the way through actions and exemplary lifestyles.

The seminar’s objective was to raise the awareness level of religious leaders on their role on AML/CFT framework, especially the mandate of GIABA; and (ii) agree on actionable points to promote peaceful co-existence in particular and in general AML/CFT efforts.

The fight against money laundering and terrorist financing is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders. It is an effort towards protecting the economies and financial systems from the of proceeds of crime. GIABA recognizes religious leaders’ valuable contribution as guardians of the faith and their institutions hold tremendous sway amongst their followers.

Fundamentally, one of GIABA’s core Strategic Goals in the 2011-2014 Strategic Plan is the promotion of strategic partnerships with the private sector, civil society, and other critical stakeholders aimed at increasing awareness of ML/TF to empower citizens to take action.

Recognizing the role of religious leaders in Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) and promoting the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, the United Nations Secretary-General enshrined in its Plan of Action on PVE the importance for faith and community leaders to mentor “vulnerable followers to enable them to reject violent ideologies” and promote “tolerance, understanding, and reconciliation between communities.”


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