Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe has said government will facilitate that parliamentary committees of Legal Affairs and Budget should meet weekend to scrutinise the Financial Crimes Bill so that it should be fast track scrutiny so that it can be brought back to House for approval.
Gondwe tabled the Bill in the House but Members of Parliament (MPs) rejected it, describing it as too technical and requiring further scrutiny.
However, the MPs including the opposition blocs agree that the legislation would help deal with money laundering and terrorism issues in Malawi, but asked for the committees with relevant technicality to critique the Bill.
Gondwe conceded that the Bill is “ technical” in nature and the length of text needed to be committed for further scrutiny by the Committees of Parliament, including the Committees of Legal Affairs and Budget.
“I hope that these Committees can meet as quickly as possible. And having had consultations with the Chairpersons of those Committees, there is a possibility that the Committee could in fact, meet during the weekend and we will certainly make arrangement that, that be done, if that is their position,” Gondwe told Parliament.
The Bill coming in the wake of Cashgate—the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill from 2005, seeks to repeal the Money Laundering Proceeds of Serious Crime and Terrorist Financing Act and create a more robust legislative response to combating financial crimes.
Gondwe said the Bill transforms the institutional framework responding to financial crimes through the creation of central autonomous and independent Financial Intelligence Authorities which will replace the Financial Intelligence Unit.
“The bill proposes to criminalise money laundering, terrorists financing, financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and general financial crimes,” said Gondwe.
The Finance Minister said the offences that have been criminalised in the bill are serious ones that have the potential of ruining a country and its economy and reputation hence the need to have penalties that will be both punitive and deterrent.
“The bill introduces enhanced penalties for these offences: money laundering, terrorists financing and financing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and have the penalty of life imprisonment for the natural person and a fine of K500 million and the revocation of business licence for legal person,” Gondwe said.
In the case of other financial crimes, the penalty will be ten years imprisonment and a fine of K20 million for the natural person and K500 million and loss of business licence for the legal person, Gondwe told the House, saying the e penalties are both punitive and deterrent.
He also said the bill introduces enhanced obligations for reporting entities when they undertake customer due diligence obligations.
Mangochi Monkey Bay MP Ralph Jooma (People’s Party-PP) said the Bill needed to be sent to the relevant parliamentary committee to allow members have enough time to dissect it.
“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,” he said.
Dowa West MP Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said the MPs had been ambushed on the Bill and, therefore, any contribution could jeopardise the proposed law
“Malawi Congress Party is therefore pleased to see that today we will be deliberating a bill that has forfeiture and confiscation provisions in it. This is the Financial Crimes Bill,” said Dzonzi who is also spokesman for MCP on finance.
Dzonzi said while MCP agrees that it is a good piece of legislation, he said “the law on its own is not enough.”
Said Dzonzi: “We need to have proper independence. The people who will be entrusted with the responsibility of enforcing this bill when it comes law should be very independent.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :