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Liberia risks economic sanctions, FIU boss warns

By Lincoln G. Peters

Liberia’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Director – General Mr. Edwin W. Harris has warned that the country risks serious economic sanctions from international partners and other private donors or investors.

Harris has warned that this sanction could be imposed if the government here through its relevant authorities fails to work in compliance with the Inter-Governmental Action Group (GIABA) against money laundering in West Africa “Mutual Evaluation” recommendations report process.

Speaking in an interview on OK FM Tuesday, 14 June 2022, Mr. Harris explained that when GIABA did its first evaluation, it established that Liberia was not in compliance with the Terrorist Financing in West Africa (FATF) recommendation.

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He said based on recommendations that came out, the FIU was founded.

GIABA was established by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority of Heads of State and Government in the year 2000.

GIABA is a specialized institution in ECOWAS that is responsible for strengthening the capacity of member states for the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorist financing in the region.

The institution is also responsible for felicitating the adoption and implementation of anti-money laundering (AML) in West Africa.

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The mutual evaluation and follow-up report by GIABA look at key areas including the political situation, economic and financial situations.

In 2010, Liberia joined GIABA, and the group did its first report on Liberia on 5 May 2011.

According to Mr. Harris, they are working on a communication to be presented to the office of President George Manneh Weah to ensure that the relevant line ministries and agencies that are part of the mutual evaluation comply and take it seriously.

Mr. Harris said he has written these institutions, but they have failed to honor his request, adding that FIU is just the regulator.

He disclosed that Liberia will be evaluated, whether or not all the country’s laws passed are consistent with the FATF and GIABA recommendations.

He said the evaluation will also establish whether Liberia is implementing the laws.

Meanwhile, Mr. Harris has complained that this has been very difficult for the FIU because it is a national process that involves all the respective government agencies.

He said this includes Finance, Lands and Mines, Central Bank of Liberia, Environmental Protection Agency, and Lottery, among others.

Mr. Harris expressed regret over government institution’s failure to cooperate and implement the mutual evaluation.

He said it’s unfortunate that none of the institutions has participated and spent money on the process.

Instead, he said this has been left with the FIU alone, and consequently draining its staff.

“If the mutual evaluation comes out and it’s dirty for Liberia, it will hamper the country because the report will be all over and published on major websites,” Mr. Harris said.

“And Liberia will not get [any] investment and investor because, on those websites, investors will go there to read before coming to a country to invest or do any business,” he warned further.

The FIU boss indicated that this would make international partners and investors to not take Liberia seriously because it shows that the country does not care.

“And they will say we have no processes in place, and our country is a place of money laundering,” the FIU Director-General said.

He said his biggest surprise is the Central Bank of Liberia that is allegedly failing to comply.

“In December 2020 when I came from plenary, I wrote the Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Mr. [J. Aloysius] Tarlue on the mutual evaluation and to this date he has not replied to me,” said Mr. Harris.

He noted that all the Central Banks in West Africa when there is a mutual evaluation, they pay 50% of the total cost, and they also deploy staff.

But he said this is not the case with the Central Bank of Liberia.

“However, I am thinking what is going on, especially when the current CBL boss worked in compliance before,” Harris lamented.

He warned that when Liberia fails in mutual evaluation, the entity that will suffer most is the CBL and not the commercial banks.

“And so, I want to use this medium, since I have written the CBL boss countless letters and he fails to reply to me, to come forth. This is not an FIU process, it’s the process of Liberia,” he said.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/fiu-liberia-director-general-chairs-fiu-forum-of-giaba-members-states/

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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