Author: GIABA Journalists Network, Ghana Chapter

Accra, Ghana – June 4, 2024: A 3-day Regional Sensitization Workshop on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) designed for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in West Africa has officially opened in Accra.

It is being organised by the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a specialized institution of ECOWAS mandated to fight Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.

The event, currently underway at the Fiesta Royale Hotel, is running from June 4 to June 6, 2024.

Also gracing the event was the Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Hon. Diana Asonaba Dapaah, who stood in for her Boss, Hon. Godfred Yeboah Dame.

The workshop aims to achieve two primary objectives: firstly, to educate civil society on the experiences and knowledge surrounding AML/CFT issues within the sub-region; and secondly, to enhance the capacity of CSOs, thereby empowering them to take a proactive role in combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

Recognizing that the fight against these financial crimes requires the concerted efforts and collaboration of all stakeholders, GIABA emphasizes the collective responsibility of protecting the economies and financial systems of member states.

The training will be delivered by experts from countries and GIABA ‘s team faculty involving presentations, case studies, group work and sharing sessions.

The institution acknowledges the vital role of civil society in mobilization and decision-making processes, underscoring the need to build strategic partnerships with CSOs in the global fight against economic and financial crimes.

GIABA was established in December 2000 as an ECOWAS specialized institution, and later became an associate member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and FATF Style Regional Body (FSRB) with the mandate to, among others:

i) Facilitate and ensure that Member States adopt adequate measures against ML & FT, in line with acceptable international practices and standards. These are based on the FATF 40 Recommendations, with specific regional peculiarities considered.

ii) Provide a forum for dialogue and share experiences among the Member States, thus creating strong intra- regional cooperation.
iii) Organize self-evaluations (on-going monitoring) and Mutual Evaluations of compliance by the Member States, using FATF Methodology.

iv) Help Member States establish and implement robust and functioning AML/CFT regimes (coordination bodies, legislation, FIUs, MLA treaties, training, etc.)

The GIABA 2023-2027 Strategic Plan gives pride of place to all stakeholders in good governance and to institutions mediating between the state and the public, organizations that comprise “civil society” – citizen groups, non-governmental organizations, trade unions, business associations, think tanks, academia, religious organizations and media have an important role to play in constraining corruption.
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) at the country level as well as internationally.

Spearheading the fight against corruption, is the most prominent example of what a civil society organization can achieve in awareness-raising, pressuring governments as well as international organizations for change and working with various sectors to implement innovative anticorruption reforms.

Since 2012 GIABA is developing core activities with CSOS to reinforce their pioneering roles in consolidating governance in their countries and internationally.

Money Laundering (ML) and the Financing of Terrorism (FT) are not new phenomena in West Africa.

Typologies have already identified a vast number of ML cases in the region; cases of FT are also now beginning to be identified in several countries.

These cases are obviously intimately linked to corruption and other general loopholes in systems.

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To cope with organized crimes and negative impacts all nations must cooperate and to act together in order to fight these threats and protect West African regional economies.

One of GIABA’s strategic goals is to promote partnerships with the private sector, civil society, and other key stakeholders.

This workshop will build on recommendations from previous sessions and develop solutions to effectively communicate GIABA’s role in assisting member states with implementing an effective AML/CFT regime in line with international standards.

This significant event represents a critical step forward in the collaborative effort to safeguard the financial integrity of West African nations and to build a unified front against financial crimes.

It will also reaffirm the collaboration of civil society in delivering public sensitization efforts.

The involvement of CSOs is crucial in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF).

This workshop aims to enhance public awareness and apply effective and sustainable pressure, key drivers in highlighting GIABA’s ongoing efforts to assist member states in addressing ML/TF challenges.

In an environment where political leaders and decision-makers need to be informed and involved, civil society will serve as the backbone for advocacy and change.

The workshop will cover several broad themes, including:

  • Trends of ML/TF in the region and an overview of regional initiatives on AML/CFT and GIABA’s mandate.
  • The role of CSOs in the fight against ML/TF in the region.
  • Forms of technical assistance available for CSOs in AML/CFT.
  • Strategies to establish a robust network of West African CSOs engaged in AML/CFT, among other topics.

Mrs. Lucy Abebrese, who read a speech on behalf of the hosts, GIABA National Correspondent and Chief Executive Officer of Ghana’s Financial Intelligence Centre, Kwaku Dua, said CSOs over the years, have had a positive impact on sustainable development of economies worldwide.

She added that this GIABA ECOWAS workshop for CSOs across the region is to re-echo their strategic importance so that participants, will continue to actively participate and influence governments to apply focused and proportionate measures in a risk based approach towards the subject matter Money Laundering & Terrorist Financing.

She applauded GIABA for this commendable step in building the capacities of CSOs in the region particularly at such an opportune time.

“We will brainstorm on common challenges that affect the effective delivery of your work in the face of fighting money laundering and terrorist financing.

This will go a long way to mitigate the unintended consequences of Rec 8 of the FATF Recommendations and our various national legislations.
In a lot of jurisdictions across the globe including Ghana, CSOs’ effective dialogue and strong advocacy with government and Central Banks has birthed specific legislations, financial products, other initiatives including representation on statutory board of Directors to facilitate CSOs’ work while strengthening the legal and institutional framework of countries.”

She said CSOs are considered as the wheels that drive the economy through impactful advocacy on policies, governments and other interventions.

“A robust CSO is an essential ingredient for a thriving democracy whether it exist to provide advocacy, technical inputs, capacity building, service delivery, social function or representation. They are indeed partnership for progress.
Our objectives for deliberation over the next 3 days of this workshop are clearly stated as;

  1. Sensitize CSOs on the dangers and repercussions of ML/TF in the region while strengthening their capacities as stakeholders in the fight against ML/TF.
  2. Sensitize CSOs to enable them conduct advocacy to influence the effective implementation of AML/CFT regimes at both domestic and regional levels.
  3. Highlight the need for CSOs to utilize relevant platforms for the dissemination of information, publications and the sharing of reliable intelligence on AML/CFT.
  4. Encourage CSOs to work within an established network of CSOs committed to the AML/CFT cause in West Africa,” she stressed.
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Adding that “CSOs are considered as the wheels that drive the economy through impactful advocacy on policies, governments and other interventions. A robust CSO is an essential ingredient for a thriving democracy whether it exist to provide advocacy, technical inputs, capacity building, service delivery, social function or representation. They are indeed partnership for progress.
Our objectives for deliberation over the next 3 days of this workshop are clearly stated as;
Sensitize CSOs on the dangers and repercussions of ML/TF in the region while strengthening their capacities as stakeholders in the fight against ML/TF.
Sensitize CSOs to enable them conduct advocacy to influence the effective implementation of AML/CFT regimes at both domestic and regional levels.
Highlight the need for CSOs to utilize relevant platforms for the dissemination of information, publications and the sharing of reliable intelligence on AML/CFT.

Encourage CSOs to work within an established network of CSOs committed to the AML/CFT cause in West Africa.”
She mentioned that Ghana was put on the FATF ‘Grey List’ due to factors including the lack of an appropriate legal and institutional framework for the regulation and supervision of the Non-Profit Organizations which includes Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

“Following the removal of Ghana from the FATF Grey List, the country continues to put in place adequate measures to fight money laundering and terrorist financing.

Though the passage of the NPO Bill is in the offing, Ghana has made efforts to put in place measures including the development of an NPO Policy and the setting up of an NPO Secretariat under the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection.”

Touching on evaluations of AML/CFT regimes, she said currently, Ghana is preparing for the Third Round of Mutual Evaluation to be conducted by GIABA next year 2025.

She continued “The Secretariat together with the FIC have made modest strides including the following: Maintaining a database of CSOs and NPOs, Issuing of licenses, Conducting fit and proper test for directors and key management Personnel, Conducting AML/CFT training for NPOs, Undertaking both onsite and offsite examination/inspection to ensure compliance with the AML/CTF requirements. (Indeed, when you go the Ministry’s website all the information is clearly spelt out there)
As part of its preparation towards the Mutual Evaluation, Ghana has begun the conduct of its Second National Risk Assessment. Indeed, this second NRA has sixteen (16) Working Groups looking at the various sectors of the economy to assess existing threats and vulnerabilities that would create avenue for money laundering and terrorist financing and we are happy to say that some of the participants here are part of DNFBP working groups.”

She urged West African governments to continue to give CSOs the needed support as they continue to demonstrate their neutrality and objectivity through effective advocacy that contribute to nation building.
“The role of CSOs as conduits, whether knowingly or unwittingly, in the offence of AML/CFT or its predicate offences cannot be over emphasized.
….CSOs across the region have over the years grappled with issues of weak governance and accountability. Most of these CSOs complain of restrictive laws posed by the governments, digital space surveillance, arrest and detention of civic actors, forced office closures, obstruction of protests and counter-protests against organizations and individuals.

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….Indeed, research has also confirmed their vulnerability to terrorist financing, particularly those CSOs who receive funding from conflict zones. These findings have made CSOs to be identified as a group for special concern worldwide and particularly in our sub-region where pockets of terrorism have been recorded,” Mrs. Lucy Abebrese observed.

She was confident that by the end of deliberations, there would be a renewed spirit to partner with GIABA, local FICs/FIUs, all other relevant authorities both domestic and international to enhance advocacy, reportage and public awareness on the issues of ML/TF.

Taking his turn to address the workshop, the GIABA Director-General, Edwin W. Harris Jnr. revealed that Money Laundering (ML) and the Financing of Terrorism (FT) is increasingly linked to organised crimes, posing a growing threat to consumers, businesses, and government alike.

He said the global nature of economic and financial crime is such that no nation can fight the problem alone, making international cooperation and working closely with key allies within the region a critical part of the response.

“In the last 24 years, GIABA has continued to drive massive stakeholders’ engagement to ensure that the proceeds of crime are not laundered, block the financing of terrorism, curb predicate offenses, and promote economic growth that benefits everyone. GIABA has successfully completed the 2nd round of the Mutual Evaluation of all 17 member Countries, with only Sao Tome and Principe’s report awaiting Plenary discussion in November.

Therefore, may I employ you all to go through the report of your countries, identify the gaps they have addressed or are addressing and use the content to engage policy makers in advocacy and in preparation for better outcome in the upcoming Third Round of Mutual Evaluation.

In the light of this, GIABA will provide some little grants for 15 CSOs in the region to support their work in advancing the course of AML/CFT in their countries. We, therefore, look forward to your participation in the process,” the GIABA DG stated.

He maintained “the aim of this Regional Workshop is to initiate a dialogue with CSOs to raise their awareness and understanding of the AML/CFT issues, and to determine together your roles and contributions to national efforts.

The purpose of each group of stakeholders is to protect national economies and financial systems of ECOWAS member States against the laundering of proceeds of crime which affect political stability, democracy, economic development, prosperity, and health of the citizens of West Africa.

…..The various presentations over the next three days will enhance participants’ understanding of GIABA mandate, the negative impact of the twin scourges (Money laundering and Financing terrorism) and your roles as CSOs to advocate for strong AML/CFT regime in the region.

The relevance of these topics, combined with the quality of presentations and the participants’ engagement, portend well for the challenges described in the various strategic plans to be met by you, CSOs.

We know that the task is immense and complex, but rest assured of our unwavering support and our commitment to collective and active solidarity in the fight against transnational organised crime.”

AMA GHANA is not responsible for the reportage or opinions of contributors published on the website.

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