Government gets nod for legislation dealing with money laundering
KINGSTON, Jamaica (CMC) – Jamaica has approved legislation that will allow the country to meet its international obligations in dealing with countering money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.
The Companies (Amendment) Act, 2023, received the Senate support last weekend and it aims to address three of the four outstanding actions agreed in Jamaica’s action plan with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for the anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism framework.
“We are in imminent danger of being blacklisted by the FATF and this is a status that would seriously affect our ability to do business,” said Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith as she piloted the measure.
“It would affect not only government [but] it would affect business, it would affect individuals, because what it would do is change the level of risk that countries and businesses outside of Jamaica view doing business with Jamaica and Jamaicans.
“It would say that our systems are not sufficiently robust in terms of their prevention of anti-money laundering and the financing of terrorism and, therefore, that they need to close down systems or implement counter measures against our systems, which would, of course, be unbearable,” Johnson Smith added.
She said that the Act will address the country’s current rating in relation to recommendation 24, which deals with transparency and beneficial ownership of legal persons and that although amendments were undertaken in 2017, “it was assessed that those amendments did not go far enough, primarily due to the following deficiencies which we seek to address.
“One, that not all legal persons are required to maintain current and accurate information on directors, shareholders and beneficial owners; two, there is no active monitoring conducted by competent authorities to ensure that basic beneficial ownership information is current for all legal persons and arrangements; and three, there are no appropriate provisions to ensure that effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions are applied against companies that do not comply with filing and record-keeping requirements and obligations to update beneficial ownership information,” Johnson Smith stated.
She said passage of the amendments will address the risk-based assessment matters identified.
The Bill seeks to ensure that provisions of the Companies Act conform with the financial action task force standards relating to beneficial ownership of companies and empower the Registrar of Companies with regulatory oversight to verify beneficial ownership information for companies.
It also seeks to provide for mutual exchange of information between the registrar and competent authorities and law-enforcement authorities, including foreign authorities, and to provide effective and proportionate sanctions to deter non-compliance by companies in relation to their obligations to declare beneficial owners.
Meanwhile, the Company’s Office has established a new money-laundering unit as well as undertaken an ICT infrastructure upgrade to boost its capacity.