By Sylvester Samba.
The European Union Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Tom Vens has said that there is no doubt that money laundering and terrorist financing can threaten a country’s social, political and economic stability, and hence its attractiveness to credible investors and it prospects for sustainable growth and job creation.
Ambassador Vens said addressing AML/CFT issue is therefore becoming increasingly relevant now that Sierra Leone seeks to attract more foreign direct investments.
The EU Ambassador made the statement yesterday at the opening of the fourth EU/GIABA sponsored awareness raising workshop for Lawyers, Notaries Public, Real Estate Agents and Car Dealers on AML/CFT. The three-day exercise which is ongoing at the Atlantic Lumley Hotel in Freetown will end tomorrow.
Ambassador Vens further explained that his organization is deeply committed to supporting countries in building fences against money laundering and the financing of terrorism through AML/CFT standard. He maintained that they know very well that these global challenges cannot be resolved by countries working alone.
The Ambassador added that money laundering is the processing of criminal proceeds to disguise their illegal origin, and the financing of terrorism are serious problems that affect all societies. “That can only be tackled if we work effectively together as a global community,” he noted.
The former Director of Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Mr. Ahmed B. Kamara was given the opportunity to serve as the keynote Speaker.
In his address, Mr. Kamara expressed his thanks and appreciation for allowing him to speak and also give an input of the institution he once headed.
The former FIU Director commended his successor for taking such bold steps to bring him onboard to lend his voice in raising awareness about the evils of money laundering and terrorist financing. “This is the fourth EU/GIABA sponsored workshop in a quick succession since the new leadership at the FIU was installed in February 12th this year…The new leadership at the FIU urgently needs exposure through study tours to advance Western FIUs to learn and adopt best practices in the fight against ML/TF”, Mr. Kamara Stressed.
The former FIU Director further pleaded with the EU through its Ambassador to Sierra Leone to scale up its AML/CFT interventions in the country, adding that it is his hope that the EU will give consideration to providing the necessary financial support for the two study tours.
He lamented that money laundering and terrorism financing are not only bad for a nation’s development, but they are evil and sinful. He concluded that ML/TF foster bribery and corruption, tax evasion, all forms of smuggling, illegal sex trade, drugs trafficking, financial fraud, kidnapping for ransom, unlawful gambling, etc.
The Director of Financial Intelligent Unit, Mr. Mohamed Kenewui Konneh assured the donor partners that President Julius Maada Bio has demonstrated and will continue to demonstrate his commitment to prevent financial crimes such as money laundering and terrorist financing.
Mr. Konneh drew the attention of the gathering to acknowledge the presence of two Technical Assistants who came all way the from the United States of America’s Treasury Department.
Mr. Konneh said the team is in the country to enhance their capacity. Apart from providing the funds, the FIU Director thanked EU and GIABA for making their presence felt during the workshop which he said is a clear demonstration that they are serious in raising awareness on AML/CFT.
He also thanked all the participants for honoring their invitation so as to help the country to combat all financial crimes in their respective businesses.
The Director said the purpose of the workshop is to enhance the participants with the necessary knowledge and capacity in the fight against AML/CFT. He added that the fight will not only benefit Sierra Leone, but the world as a whole.