Just a couple of days ago, a cross section of young Gambian men and women including students of the University of The Gambia converged at a local hotel to be enlightened on money laundering and its attendant consequences. Having been part of the exercise in addition to nine other journalists, I find it compelling to do a write-up on the issue with special focus on the youth.
Thanks to the Dakar-based Inter-governmental Action Group against Money Laundering (GIABA),the subject itself is increasingly becoming a hot topic of discussion and area of focus in recent times, alongside terrorist financing, drug trafficking, extortion and racketeering. All are crimes that could prove tempting for young people in the face of the get-rich-quick syndrome which in itself is a make or break issue for many young people the world over.
Before discussing the nuts and bolts of money laundering and its ramifications for the youth, it is important to first and foremost explain what the practice is. It has simply been defined by some as the ‘ process of taking proceeds of criminal activities and making them appear legal. A more detailed explanation of the phenomenon is offered by the Vienna and Palermo conventions on money laundering. According to the provisions of these conventions, money laundering may encompass three distinct alternative actus reas:(i) The commission or transfer,knowing that such property is the proceeds of crime(ii) the concealment concealment the disguise of the true nature, source, location, deposition,movement, ownership of rights with respect to property, knowing that such property is the proceeds of crime; and (iii) the acquisition, possession and use of property, knowing, at the time of the receipt, that such property is the proceeds of crime.
Owing to their highly ambitious tendencies, coupled with the widely established fact that our society is a youthful population, they are very much liable to fall victim to highly organised criminal groups either by design or by coincidence depending on the circumstances at play. As such, caution becomes the catch word for young people.
The recently held convergence which was designed to foster and strengthen partnership between GIABA and our youth in tightening the noose on transnational organised crimes, notably money laundering and terrorist financing, came at a time when the West African sub-region is said to be highly vulnerable to the threats posed by what is also referred to as ‘income generating crimes’, kidnapping inclusive.
In the grand scheme of things, money laundering and terrorist financing says Adama Coulibally DG GIABA, severely undermine sustainable development by eroding social and human capital, threatening social and political stability, causing an artificial rise in the cost of business and driving away investment. He went further to say “this undercuts the ability of member States to initiate or accelerate development. The proceeds of crime fuel corruption, which in turn facilitates the commission of crimes and undermines the rule of law. The result of inadequate rule of law is a sense of general insecurity, which renders the state incapable of attracting enough foreign direct investments”.
The aforementioned lines quoted there make a grim reading while at the same time ring alarm bells, given that any country that finds itself in such a precarious situation especially when direct foreign investment is not forthcoming, will naturally find opportunities hard to come by for her youth.
The picture painted there becomes even more worrisome when one considers the startling revelation by GIABA that deaths stemming from terrorist financing in West Africa rose from 109 in 2011 to 495 this year, underlining a sharp escalation in human casualties in the space of just five years.
As an important segment of our population, The Gambia like any other developing nation, can’t afford to be a bystander in the crusade against money laundering and related crimes, given that youths can be both perpetrators and victims. That made the ‘Open House Forum’ for the youth a commendable affair.
A statement read in the name of the Finance and Economics Affairs Minister says effective anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regimes are essential to protect the integrity of markets and the global financial system as they help mitigate the factors that facilitate financial abuse.
So far, Gambian authorities reported that several measures have been put in place here on the homefront. The Anti-terrorism Act enacted in 2002, followed by the Money Laundering Act 2003 and subsequently the enactment of the Anti-money Laundering and combating of Anti-terrorism Financing Act 2012, following a review of the 2003 legislation are some of the high profile steps taken to deal with money laundering and terrorism financing.
On top of these, The Gambia has also created the Finance Intelligence Unit(FIU) as a specialised government entity dedicated to fighting money laundering, terrorist financing and other criminal conducts. The unit with a Director General, is said to have since been receiving Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs), which are analysed and where there is ground of suspicion, intelligent reports are forwarded to the concerned law enforcement agencies for investigation.
Cognizant of the fact that most young people and journalists like myself were not au fait with the implications of some of these crimes until our participation in the recently held gathering on money laundering, it is imperative to share with the rest the stance of our domestic laws on the issue.
The man heading The Gambia’s Finance Intelligence Unit has told young people in attendance that Money Laundering is one of the most punitive crimes in the country’s criminal justice system.He made it crystal clear that no distinction has been made between the principal and secondary offenders and that the minimum sentence is a ten-year jail term without an option of a fine. Sadly, he intimated that many young people are unaware of the gravity of the crime(s). And with almost every young person now immersed in ICT like never before, the need for sensitisation programmes couldn’t be more urgent.
by Famara Fofana