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Written by Chidinma Okpara: Project Officer, and Oyindamola Aramide: Communications Officer, Regulatory Engagement, NNNGO.
Thoughts and opinions expressed are that of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Nigeria Network of NGOs
The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, (GIABA) is responsible for strengthening the capacity of ECOWAS member states towards the prevention and control of money laundering and terrorist financing in the region.
Officially inaugurated in year 2000, GIABA operates as one of the eight FATF style regional bodies concerned with ensuring that member states of ECOWAS comply with international AML/CFT standards as well as granting Observer Status to African, non-African States and Inter-Governmental Organizations which have applied for observer status and support its objectives and actions.
The creation of GIABA is a major response and contribution of the ECOWAS to the fight against money laundering. GIABA consists of 16 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
GIABA’s core functions includes: Institutional Development, compliance monitoring, technical support to member states, Regional and International Cooperation, partnership, Typologies and other Research. This helps to determine the techniques, methods, extent, pattern, trends, location and impact of Money Laundering and Terrorist financing on Member States. The conduct of Technical Assistance Needs Assessment (TANA) on member States was aimed at determining specific targets for intervention with a view to making maximum impact in strengthening the regional AML/CFT framework.
This anti-money laundering agency operates through four main organs: An Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee consisting of three ministers responsible for Finance, Justice and Interior/ Security of each Member State; The Secretariat, which is located in Dakar, Republic of Senegal; the Technical Commission, which consists of experts drawn from the above-mentioned ministries of member States and; a network of national correspondents.
In carrying out its duties, GIABA conducts Mutual Evaluations of Member States in accordance with FATF standards and also in compliance with its enabling Statutes. The Evaluations are based on the FATF Forty Recommendations (2003) and the Nine Special Recommendations on Terrorist Financing (2001), using the AML/CFT Methodology 2004.
Member States of GIABA agree to subject themselves to a mutual assessment process in conformity with international standards for preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism as contained in Articles 12 to 14 of the GIABA Statute. The scope of the Evaluation is to assess whether the necessary laws, regulations or other measures required under the essential criteria are in force and effect, that there has been a full and proper implementation of all the necessary measures, and that the AML/CFT system as implemented is effective.
The evaluated country is rated depending on the efficacy of measures put in place to detect, prevent or sanction cases of money laundering and terrorist financing. Ratings range from compliant, largely compliant, partially compliant, to non-compliant. A report is issued after completion of the mutual evaluation. It is then discussed and adopted at GIABA Plenary. Once the report is adopted by the Plenary, it will be published on GIABA website unless the country raises objection to the publication of the report. In such a situation, the Secretariat would publish a note to indicate that the country has chosen not to publish its report. The mutual evaluation onsite visits are based on the calendar approved from time to time by the GIABA Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee.
It is safe to say that going by its method of evaluation, implementation of laws and regulations and the adoption of FATF’s way of doing things, GIABA has adopted the FATF procedure in the evaluation of Member States.