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ECOWAS asked to criminalize money laundering

Apr 18, 2011, 1:11 PM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

The West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM) Friday wrapped up a week-long regional course on combating money laundering and other financial crimes, with participants calling on ECOWAS to hasten to criminalize money laundering in the sub-region by coming up with a deadline for member countries to enact anti-money laundering laws.

The course, held at the Paradise Suites Hotel, brought together over 50 participants from across the sub-region with a view to developing critical skills in tracking money laundering and financial crimes perpetrated through the financial system in the sub-region.

In a seven-page communiqué issued at the end of the course, participants noted that concern is growing about the grave dangers posed by money laundering and other financial crimes to the stability and integrity of the fragile financial systems in the West African sub-region.

They said that the need to institute counter measures to money laundering cannot be over-emphasized, given the devastating effects such a menace could have on the financial systems and national economies.

With globalization, participants added, crime transcends national boundaries so easily that the fight against the scourge calls for absolute collaboration at the national and international levels.

Noting that counter measures taken by the national authorities to contain these crimes have met with limited success, because crime is no respecter of national boundaries, the participants called for inter-country and inter-agency collaboration to combat the menace.

In their recommendations, participants also called on political office holders to stop paying lip service to the fight against money laundering, and financial institutions to implement robust anti-money laundering laws.

They also called on financial institutions, regulatory authorities and all relevant law enforcement agencies to intensify their efforts at providing specialized training for their staff on how to combat money laundering, and member countries to mount public awareness campaigns to sensitize and educate the public, which must include legislators on the mechanisms and effects of money laundering.

The participants also noted that law enforcement and judiciary agencies should be provided with adequate resources to ensure that they do their work effectively without being compromised.

In her closing remarks, on behalf of the Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia, Mrs Oumie Savage-Samba, second Deputy Governor, Central Bank of The Gambia, noted that it is quite apparent that money laundering activities undermine the safety and soundness of our financial systems, which could lead to financial instability and hence weak economic development.

According to her, often times, people wonder why we should be concerned about the availability of funds into an economy regardless of its origin. This standpoint, she added, is more pronounced in poor developing economies where every bit of an inflow is believed to contribute to the developmental process.

"This school of thought is mainly as a result of ignorance," Mrs Savage-Samba stated.

She commended the management and staff of WAIFEM for a job well done, and the participants for their mature disposition.

Ousman Sowe, Director Financial Sector Management Department at WAIFEM, made a brief speech on behalf of the Director General of WAIFEM Prof. Akpan H. Ekpo, while Mrs. Alice Tenthani, a participant from Malawi, delivered the vote of thanks on behalf of her fellow participants, who were all awarded certificates.