Amendments to Antigua and Barbuda’s laws need to be collated into single and updated volumes for reference and comparison, so that their evolution and history can be understood and placed into proper context.
That was, in essence, the view of a Member of Parliament – submitted as part of his contribution to debate on the Money Laundering Prevention Amendment Bill 2020 when it was tabled in the House of Representatives last Thursday, May 14th.
The MP for St. Peter and Government backbencher Asot Michael is of the view that, as things now stand, amendments are scattered all over the place and make it difficult to understand what is being changed when bills for the amendment of existing laws are laid in Parliament.
Michael called on Attorney General (AG) Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin to include copies of the documents and reports that inform these amendments with the drafts of the bills that are circulated to members for their perusal in advance of the Parliamentary process.
“This is the umpteenth amendment to the Money Laundering Prevention Act, and it has become unwieldy … The reason for this bill seems to legislate … the recommendations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and the Mutual Evaluation Report on Antigua and Barbuda from 2018. But, Mr. AG, we as lawmakers in this house, at least give us the respect and the courtesy to have sight of this report, and also to update [us on] the CFATF’s 40 recommendations,” Michael stated.
He explained that he had deduced from the explanatory memorandum of the draft bill “that there are 40 recommendations that the Financial Action Task Force made in 2012. You reference it in the explanatory memorandum. Share it with us, Mr. AG. I’m not picking on you, Sir. I’m just saying get your legal people in the office to do their work. We should not be asked to rely on … quotations from the report. We should have the report.”
Noting that the Bill under consideration contained 33 pages with 27 clauses of amendments, Michael declared: “You cannot – it is impossible – to follow the current law, unless there is a consolidation of all of the amendments. When you want to go to a piece of legislation – not just money laundering – and we’re making all of these amendments; when was the last time the Government of Antigua and Barbuda paid for and commissioned all of those Laws of Antigua and Barbuda to be put in those books there before the mace?”
To a muted reply of “1994” from the Attorney General, Michael responded: “How can we follow – not just us; forget about us in here – how can any lawyer outside of Antigua and Barbuda [who says] ‘send me your Money Laundering Prevention Act, send me your ONDCP Act’, and they have to go back to the ‘80s or ‘90s, then every single amendment (I’m sure we’ve made over 80 or 90 amendments) we need all of the consolidations of these into the law.”
Michael’s criticisms of the legislative status quo did not appear to evoke any resistance or misgivings from the Attorney General and his other Parliamentary colleagues on the Government side.
The former Cabinet minister stressed that he was only making a suggestion for the Legislative Drafting Department “to consolidate all of the amendments – including this one – and make it available to the lawmakers and to the public as soon as possible. And not just this one, but all of the other amendments like the Labour Code … We must, first of all, when we circulate the amendments, get the legal department to send us the original Bill. How can we follow the amendments? I asked my good friend here today to look at something with the Digital Assets Bill. He can’t follow it [because] we don’t have the original Bill.”
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I wish Antigua would grow some b*lls and truly become an offshore financial banking center. If EU and US are going to blacklist us via the OECD anyways, then we might as well become what they say we are. The world is now looking for a true offshore banking center and I think Antigua could be more rich as a country if it actually just accepted all the money in the world like Switzerland used to do, even if that means we are shut off from the global financial system. In fact, I would say that many people in the world want to bank in a place where the country is shut off to the rest of the world – more secure that way.
The average Antiguan or Barbudan, and their families are not “rich enough” monetarily, to qualify as depositors, in these off-shore banks.
So, where would your suggestions leave…
(a) the locals whose internal banks have to deal with there parent companies from those Nations, that would have “blacklisted” the Nation, as Rogue State?
(b) those Nationals who reside outside, of the Nation; yet, have to conduct businesses with those Parent companies, again, in the Nations which have blacklisted Antigua & Barbuda?
Remittances, and FDI comes to mind…
Asot Michael, MP is smelling the bait on the hook, and it’s driving him up the wall.
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