Progress in the implementation of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) measures in The Gambia has been slow, according to a new report published by a West African agency that monitors and works to prevent the twin crimes.
The Gambia also lacks the capacity to monitor the full stretch of its borders, according to the 2013 Annual Report of the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA)
The report, obtained by PANA in Banjul Monday, said smuggling is therefore prevalent, though the country’s customs collaborate with Senegalese counterparts to address the problem.
“As recent seizures of cocaine and marijuana demonstrate, the country is also one of the routes for drug trafficking in West Africa,” the report said.
It noted that the high concentration of commercial banks in The Gambia is generally considered as disproportionate to the country’s economy – while tourism-related human trafficking is a thriving underground business in the West African country.
“It is also a source, transit and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labour and sex exploitation,” it added.
The GIABA report said the US State Department’s ‘Trafficking in Persons Report 2013’ reveals that the booming sex tourism industry propels the recruitment of young, sometimes under-aged, girls from nearly all ECOWAS member States by traffickers to meet the demands of European child-sex tourists.
GIABA’s report said cross-border movement of cash is a serious challenge due to the economic activities of nationals from other countries.
The anti-money laundering agency said The Gambia has become very attractive for such transactions because of its more liberal policies compared to neighbouring Senegal’s strict monitoring of foreign exchange transfers.
GIABA said the most prevalent predicate crimes in the country in 2013 were drug trafficking, corruption, tax fraud, bank fraud and fraud in other investments.
It quoted a Country Report provided by The Gambia, which states that “the proceeds of these crimes are typically laundered through the real estate, cross-border cash movements, banks and DNFBPs [Designated Non-Financial Business and Profession].”
Two years ago, The Gambia enacted a new AML/CFT law, reactivated the Inter-Ministerial Committee and appointed a Director for its financial intelligence unit, the FIU.
GIABA said these measures have helped to address some of the deficiencies in the country’s AML/CFT regime.
However, it added that the seventh follow-up report of the country, submitted in November 2013, shows that it has not addressed a number of the strategic deficiencies in its AML/CFT system.
GIABA said The Gambia needs to mobilise all required resources, including political commitment at the highest level, in order to mitigate the ML/TF risks it faces.
It is also in the interest of the country to address these deficiencies urgently in order to avoid being blacklisted as a country not making sufficient progress to improve its AML/CFT system, GIABA warned.
“The consequences of this action on the country’s economy will be enormous.”