Members of Parliament (MPs) who will be meeting for mid-term budget review from February 6 to March 7 will discuss the Financial Crimes Bill and pass it before February 15 to establish a National Financial Intelligence Authority in a bid to effectively prevent, investigate and combat financial-related crimes in the country.
Chairperson of Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Maxwell Thyolera said they have been made to understand that “if the Financial Crimes Bill is not passed by February 15, Malawi will be blacklisted on financial matters.”
Thyolela said :“Malawi is a signatory of a number of treaties and protocols. One of them is on money laundering. All signatories were given February 15 2017 as a deadline to have a comprehensive law on financial crimes.”
The bill was tabled in the previous sitting but was referred to Legal Affairs, and Budget and Finance Committees of parliament committee to allow members have enough time to look at it.
It was gazeted on December 5 2016 and tabled 10 days later which prompted Mangochi Monkey Bay MP Ralph Jooma (People’s Party-PP) to ask the House to refer it to relevant committees, saying sthe Bill was too technical and requiring further scrutiny.
Jooma, however, noted that the Bill is important because it not only gives powers of investigations and freezing of [questionable] proceeds to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), “but also gives powers to banks and other relevant authorities to confiscate such proceeds, unlike the Money Laundering Act which never gave such powers.”
Financial Crimes Act has 11 components, among them the establishment of the authority with the mandate to trace, identify, track, freeze and seize or confiscate proceeds of crimes.
National Financial Intelligence Authority, according to the Bill, is expected to create a more robust legislative response to combat financial crimes.
Reads in part the Bill: “The Bill seeks [provide a legal instrument] to better prevent, investigate and combat financial and related or consequential crimes; to enable the tracing, identification, tracking, freezing, seizure or confiscation of proceeds of crimes; and to provide for connected and incidental matters.”
If passed, the Bill will see Malawi having two institutions focusing on investigating financial crimes as the country already has the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) established under the Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crimes and Terrorist Financing Act.
In the proposed Bill, the head of the authority will be appointed by the President and that he/she will be reporting directly to minister of finance.
In 2006, under Money Laundering, Proceeds of Serious Crimes and Terrorist Financing Act, government created the FIU with the mandate to receive, request and analyse suspicious transaction reports from financial institutions.
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