New Telegraph

Terror financing, money laundering disrupt democracy in West Africa, says Harris

The Director-General of the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, (GIABA), Mr Edwin Harris, jnr. has warned that terror financing, money laundering and other transnational national crimes fuel political instability in West Africa, hence leaders in the sub-region must collectively develop the political will to eliminate them. Harris, who was responding to our reporter’s question against the recent outcry by Guinea-Bissau’s President, Umaro Embalo, that he and his cabinet members were targeted for elimination by drug barons, said terror financing disrupts democratic rule in the region. Speaking at the unveiling of the group’s 2022 report from the 17-member states at a world press conference in Dakar, Senegal, Harris said ECOWAS countries should ensure enforcement of all regional and international frameworks to eliminate the crimes. Harris stated that during the period under review, while Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) revealed many remarkable progress made by some member states, a few of them lacked national AML/CFT national coordination policy to address associated risks, many criminal investigative and prosecutorial authorities failed to prioritise money laundering investigations neither did they operationally prioritise AML/CFT national mechanism.

“Tracing, seizure and confiscation of criminal assets are major challenges in taking profit out of crime and ensuring operational cooperation at all national and international levels are important to promote national policies that would increase effective information sharing among public authorities and with the private sector,” he explained.

Harris announced the deployment of the GIABA Strategic Plan 2023-2027, with the overarching objective of contributing to the achievement of the “ECOWAS 2050 Vision” of a fully integrated community of people, living in a peaceful and prosperous region, with strong institutions and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, striving for inclusive and sustainable development. He advocated harmonisation of implementation of Anti-Money Laundering/ Countering of Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) measures and the adoption of best practices at the global level, to contribute to global efforts to combat financial crimes and ensure that our region’s interests are wellrepresented. In the area of risk understanding and compliance, he said that GIABA would strengthen its risk assessment methodologies, promote adoption of riskbased approaches in AML/ CFT compliance and supervision, and facilitate the development of robust compliance frameworks in member states.

Earlier, the National Coordinator of ECOWAS Office in Senegal, Mustapha Mamadou, urged GIABA to strengthen member nations to deal with the menace of terror financing and money laundering, adding that ECOWAS leaders have moral, political and economic authority to stop it Doyen of ECOWAS Ambassadors in Senegal, Alhaji Brima Koena, stressed the need for GIABA to strengthen financial integrity in the sub-region, while governments ensure such criminals are arrested, prosecuted and punished.

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