The Inter- Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in West Africa (GIABA), in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, on Monday, began a five-day training workshop for prosecutors in charge of money laundering cases in Commonwealth member states in West Africa and Cameroon, at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The capacity, which brought together at least 50 participants was sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation and facilitated by experts from the Commonwealth Secretariat, United States Department of Treasury, GIABA and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Delivering a statement at the opening of the training, Marie Saine Firdaus, Attorney-General and Secretary of State for Justice, described the training as timely, as terrorism financing, drug abuse and trafficking, corruption and money laundering have become key transnational crimes that the world is grappling with.
Mrs Saine Firdaus added that the perpetrators of such crimes employ sophisticated techniques and processes to cover up “illicit nature” of the origins of their wealth to perpetrate criminal activities.
According to the Justice SoS, money laundering and financial terrorism have a devastating impact on the Third World countries.
Mrs Saine Firdaus further reiterated that the training presents the best opportunity for sharing of efforts, experiences and challenges, with experts across the globe to improve common strategies and find solutions to a common problem.
She added that the training will provide technical guidance for multifarious member states obligations, under the relevant UN Security Council’s resolutions, International and Regional Agreements. She said it will empower prosecutors with adequate knowledge and attitude to deal with issues relating to prosecution of money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism financing cases.
Mrs Saine Firdaus informed the gathering that The Gambia has put in place the necessary legal framework, which is based largely on acceptable international standards, including the Money Laundering Act 2003, Drug Control Act 2003 and Anti-terrorism Act of 2003. She added that the National Drug Enforcement Agency and the Financial Iintelligence Unit of the Central Bank of The Gambia, have also been established to address crimes related to money laundering in relation to drug trafficking activities.
Abdou Karim Savage, Chief Justice of The Gambia, said the fight against money laundering requires the collaboration of investigators, prosecutors and the judiciary to prosecute perpetrators, adding that prosecutors have a daunting challenge in this process.
Ousman Sonko, Secretary of State for Interior, said although Africa is not seriously affected by terrorist activities, but the Act should be the concern of all and sundry. SoS Sonko expressed the need for collaboration between investigators and prosecutors to ensure effective prosecution.
For his part, Dr Abdoulahi Shehu, Director-General of GIABA, said organised crime is a major threat to international peace and security, adding that money laundering is a derivative crime. Mr Shehu said terrorist financing are power manifestations of their threat. “These potentially- harmful activities are capable of affecting the efficient functioning of any system and even undermine the legitimacy of the system in extreme cases. Money laundering and related terrorist financning are inimical to the credibility and integrity of the financial system,” he said.
According to him, the impact of these phenomenon may be more devastating on developing economies. He therefore stressed that international cooperation is crucial to effectively deal with the problems.
Dr Shehu noted that the establishment of GIABA is a demonstration of the strong political commitment of member states to address the menaces of organised crimes.
He further noted that successful prosecution of economic and financial crimes, is critical in establishing rule of law, adding that “enhancing the rule of law and human security, and bringing criminals to justice, would not only deny the criminals the benefits of their ill-gotten gains, but would also send a signal that no body is above the law”. “Respect for the law is an important quality of a good citizen,” he concluded.