Experts meeting in Kigali to explore ways of addressing money laundering and terrorist financing in the region are calling on the East African Community (EAC) partner countries to enforce the laws on money laundering.
The meeting brought together key stakeholders from governments, law enforcement agencies, financial institutions and security experts from the region.
Money laundering is the process of concealing the source of money obtained by illicit means. The methods by which money may be laundered are varied and can range in sophistication. Many regulatory and governmental authorities quote estimates each year for the amount of money laundered, either worldwide or within their national economy.
“The only solution to curb money laundering and terrorist financing is to enforce our national laws and monitoring of terrorist organisations,” said Daniel Ochieng, Regional Coordinator of Terrorism Research and Response, East Africa.
Ochieng stated that if money laundering is prevented, terrorism would not flourish, adding that subversive activities are backed by money laundering and illegal financing.
In 1996, the International Monetary Fund estimated that two to five percent of the global economy involved laundered money.
“Money laundering and terrorist financing activities may have negative consequences for a country’s financial stability and macroeconomic performance. We call upon our economies to enforce the law so that these activities are prevented,” noted Ochieng.
The three-day forum, under the theme “Combating financial crimes in East Africa”, is organised by Cyber Security Africa, a technology security solutions company based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Speaking at the forum, the Director of Financial Stability at the National Bank of Rwanda, Joy Ntare, said that money laundering cases in Rwanda were very rare and minimal.
The rare cases of money laundering are attributed to measures that include, among others, tight governance by the central bank, very small market and lesser population.
“We are in the region that is vulnerable so we need to be able to raise awareness,” she said.
“We may not be having such cases, but that does not mean that there is no possible risk for that. Being a peaceful country, we talk of zero tolerance to corruption and are busy attracting investors. So its paramount to enforce the anti-money laundering law because we may not be aware of the investors coming in and where they get the money from,” she added.
Ntare called for strong mechanisms to mitigate the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing activities in the region.
Rwanda passed the anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism law in 2008, a move that positioned the country to be competitive within the East African Community (EAC) by raising investor confidence.
In a bid to enforce the law curbing money laundering, the government established the Financial Intelligence Unit, an agency mandated to share information on suspicious transactions across borders.
The Alliance Manager at Cyber Security Africa, Sammy Kioko, said EAC governments have in place anti-money laundering laws but they need to be fully implemented to contain possible risks.
“The forum will be a platform where experts will share best possible ways to protect companies from fraud, anti-money laundering and terrorist financing measures in case such risks arise in the region,” he noted.
Alex Kioni, Lead Technical Consultant, Security Systems at IBM East Africa, said, “Financial crimes threaten organisations at multiple points of vulnerability. Levelling detection systems for both fraud prevention and detection and anti-money laundering processes can reduce risk while help improving analyst efficiency.”
Latest statistics from FIU show that from last year up to March this year, it reported 124 suspicious transactions.
According to the Rwandan law, any person who leaves or enters the country transporting cash or negotiable bills of exchange exceeding $10,000, without prior declaration, except for funds certified by a withdrawal slip issued by an accredited bank, will be committing a money laundering offence.
By Frank Kanyesigye, The New Times