President David Granger: Right Honourable Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth; Honourable Basil Williams, Minister of Legal Affairs and Chairman of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force; Ms. Dawne Spicer, Executive Director, Caribbean Financial Action Task Force; Ministers of the Government; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Members of the Judiciary; participating delegates.
I am happy to welcome you to Guyana at the start of our rainy season. The May-June rains in Guyana never fail and we have in the past applied this feature to ensure not unfavourable outcomes in our cricket matches when we used to have those long test matches. So the longer you stay the more rains you will see.
Ladies and gentlemen, the rule of law is society’s sword and shield to protect it against financial crimes. It is the bulwark which protects citizens against despotism. The rule of law as such must be fortified in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing if it is to be successful. It guarantees the principle of equality before the law, it guarantees the promotion of law and order and respect for citizens’ rights. It guarantees the predictable dispensation of justice through the recourse to independent and impartial institutions in the settlement of disputes.
The Caribbean’s fragmented jurisdictions scattered over 2,754 square kilometres of sea space between the continents of North and South America became the prey of European empires armies and navies five centuries ago. They have, today, become an attractive destination for financial pirates and privateers, money launderers and tax evaders. The conquistadores have gone but present day transnational criminal cartels possess the means to corrupt public officials and the motivation to undermine the institutions which sustain the rule of law. Present day information communication technologies can facilitate the transfer of financial assets across the borders at the speed of light. Illicit proceeds can contaminate the voluminous transactions which take place within our country’s financial systems. Caribbean citizens without the protection of the law could become captive to slick organised crime. The criminal justice systems of small states must be safeguarded from the subversion of organized crime. The rule of law must be a shield protecting our citizens and our institutions. It must be a spear to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. It can do so by inculcating norms which encourage compliance with the law, by increasing the likelihood of interdiction and prosecution of financial crimes and by imposing penalties which act as effective deterrents to such crimes.
Ladies and gentlemen, Caribbean countries must be strengthened if they are to protect their institutions against the threats of money laundering and terrorist financing. Robust legislation and sturdy institutions are the weapons in the war against financial crimes. Guyana embarked on the path of passing legislation to counter financial crimes eighteen years ago. Such legislation has corrected deficiencies in the anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism regime and allowed for the improvement of compliance with the standards imposed by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force.
Guyana has strengthened its institutions, the Bank of Guyana, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions which have been empowered with the authority and autonomy and equipped with the technical resources and personnel to discharge their functions under its Anti-Money Laundering and the Countering of the Financing of Terrorism legislation. Guyana iterates its commitment to erecting an impregnable criminal justice system in its continued campaign to combat financial crimes.
Ladies and gentlemen, small Caribbean States are limited, not only in size but also human resources, in technology and in capital. These constraints could impair the capability of law enforcement agencies to combat transnational criminal cartels. Intensified international collaboration could improve communication, cooperation and capacity building. This workshop, therefore, is an important initiative in establishing mechanisms for Caribbean jurisdictions to strengthen measures for the continued sharing of intelligence information and best practices which relate to financial crimes; for cooperating with each other in the investigation and interdiction of transnational crimes and the enforcement of our financial laws; and in continuing to build the capacity of the institutions which police these systems and which prosecute financial crimes. This workshop aims at facilitating the exchange of experiences and sharing of best practices with regards to the investigation and prosecution of money laundering and terrorist financing crimes. It recognises the roles that judges and prosecutors play within the institutional architecture for countering money laundering and terrorist financing.
Ladies and gentlemen, Guyana is honoured to host this workshop for judges and prosecutors. I commend the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force; the Commonwealth and my own country’s Ministry of Legal Affairs for this initiative. This workshop lays the groundwork for improved communication, improved cooperation and improved capacity building; all for the protection and promotion of the rule of law. The Cooperative Republic of Guyana welcomes you once again and iterates its commitment to collaborating with its sister states in the Caribbean to strengthen the rule of law and to protect the rights of citizens.
I thank you.