Think Twice, Stop Money-Laundering

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Anyone planning to launder money in Namibia should think twice because the authorities will be watching you, according to Bank of Namibia Governor Thomas Alweendo. This was made clear when Alweendo delivered his annual Governor’s Address to an audience of prominent guests including ministers, Members of Parliament, diplomats, business executives and other VIPs on Wednesday evening. It was important to note, he said, that the legal framework in Namibia with regard to money-laundering is about to change and that this will increase the country’s effectiveness in combating this evil. The National Assembly has already debated and passed the Financial Intelligence Bill, which has been forwarded to the National Council. The Financial Intelligence Bill establishes a Financial Intelligence Centre that will be located at the Bank of Namibia. According to Alweendo, the main responsibility of this Centre will be to receive reports of suspicious transactions from banks, other “accountable institutions” and supervisory bodies. “Such reports will be used to compile intelligence packages which will be disseminated to law enforcement authorities for investigation and possible prosecution,” he revealed. He gave the assurance that Namibia is now ready to deal with money-laundering and prevent the harmful effects it has on society. “The legal foundations and institutional structures are being finalized and, I believe, we have the necessary commitment from all role-players to make a success of our determination,” he said. The financial sector, and the banking sector in particular, need to operate in a crime-free and money-laundering-free environment. “Banks deal with other people’s money, and therefore rely heavily on a reputation for probity and integrity,” he stressed. He cautioned that, without the necessary public confidence, it would be difficult for banks to conduct business in the form they do today. “In instances where banks may condone and are active parties to money-laundering, the end result is that legitimate business would avoid such banks,” he remarked. Alweendo emphasized that it is important to acknowledge that money-laundering is a crime, just like other crimes, and therefore affects everyone. In his view, the consequences of crime, including money-laundering, are bad for business, development and the general rule of law. “Another reason why money laundering should be combated is that if left unchecked, it would lead to the accumulation of economic power by organized crime,” he noted. Such a development had the potential of eroding the country’s political and social systems based on elected representatives as we know them today. He warned that the social consequences of allowing money-launderers to operate unchecked could spell disaster for stability and the rule of law. Earlier on it was thought money-laundering was confined to the developed economies, and that money-launderers do not target developing economies. Another misconception is that money-laundering proceeds are always to do with drug-related crimes. “The truth of the matter is, however, that money-laundering can originate from anywhere in the world,” Alweendo said.