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Raft of amendments to financial legislation introduced in the House of Representatives

Posted: Monday, April 24, 2023. 8:08 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: As part of its commitment to joining the international community in combatting money laundering, terrorism financing, and financing of illegal weapon purchases, the Government of Belize has introduced amendments to seven critical pieces of national legislation, all having to do with financial structure.

As we have previously reported, Belize awaits a review of the legislative and enforcement framework by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), to be carried out starting in June and ending in December.

Prime Minister John Briceño noted that in 2013, Belize failed the regional review and CFATF recommended “counter-measures” for other countries to protect themselves in their dealings with Belizean agents and authorities. Minister of State Christopher Coye, in comments echoed by the Prime Minister in the House, has blamed the loss of “80 percent” correspondent banking relationships on the previous government’s lack of effort to keep Belize out of dander on this issue. While the House passed previous compliant legislation with unanimous support, the legislation was not kept updated, he said, resulting in gaps that now have to be filled.

In addition to the recently passed Non-Profit Organizations Act, seven amendments were listed as follows by the Prime Minister to the Credit Unions Act; Central Bank of Belize Act; Domestic Bank and Financial Institutions Act; International Banking Act; Money Laundering and Terrorism Prevention Act; National Payment Systems Act, and the Money Lenders Act.

Generally, the amendments cover expanding the role of the Central Bank as Governor of the financial system, governing the leaders of financial institutions and setting up mechanisms to ensure financial institutions comply with anti-money laundering and terrorism financing obligations at all levels, and institution of sanctions for those who do not. One of the amendments, to the Money Laundering and Terrorism Prevention Act, was described as “deceptively long” but most of it, per the Prime Minister, was a “list [of] individuals and entities which the United Nations oblige us to apply targeted financial sanctions against and which is required by the FATF. So, we have taken a practical step to clear the backlog of those designated persons through this schedule as opposed to flooding the courts with over seven hundred applications and bringing our judicial system to a standstill.”

The bills will be taken before House Committees and consulted on before being read a second time, with a target date of June set for full addition to the law canon.

 

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