Lesotho in dire need to fight money laundering
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By Lineo Ramatlapeng
Lesotho is amongst countries hit by money laundering that according to the Financial Intelligence Unit is seen to be used to conceal proceeds of crime from livestock rustlers to white-collar criminals.
The Financial Intelligence Unit’s acting Chief Executive, Jothane Phakisi said the country’s delegation was led by the Finance ministry in the convening of a combined 39th and 40th virtually held Eastern and Southern Africa Anti Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) senior officials’ meetings that highlighted dire need to fight money laundering in its various manifestations.
ESAAMLG senior officials meeting which is a Financial Action Task Force (FATF), style regional body established to fight money laundering, financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction meeting was attended by officials from ministries and Institutions including Ministry of Justice, Home Affairs, Trade and Industry, Central Bank of Lesotho, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences, Lesotho Mounted Police Service, Lesotho Revenue Authority and the Financial Intelligence Unit.
Phakisi said the bloc holds bi-annual meetings every year in March and September, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the 2020 meetings were postponed and only held in December.
Phakisi said normally after senior officials meeting there is a counsel of ministers which is made up of finance ministers from each country that is part of bloc.
Phakisi explained that the bloc undertakes its mandate by evaluating its member states’ compliance with international standards against money laundering set by FATF.
He said currently Lesotho is working on five pieces of legislation intended to regulate and deter money laundering and ensure the country’s compliance to set standards.
“There are five Acts of Law that Lesotho has to work on such as drugs of abuse which were supposed to have been amended,” he said.
Phakisi said to date they have completed only three drafts of laws and are left with only two.
He said some of the challenges for not completing all five legislations included the change of government in May, the emergence of covid-19, and shortage of funds.
Phakisi said it was a change in government, which led to Parliament closing as well as COVID-19 and lack of resources that derailed the progress made towards the enactment of the relevant laws to combat money laundering.
Phakisi mentioned that money laundering matters include different institutions as FIU, they are the center of it all and when they have information that involves it, they disseminate the information to law enforcement agencies that have to make further investigations and also seize properties and prosecute cases.
“We get information from banks, accountants, lawyers, and every other person,” said Phakisi.
Phakisi mentioned that in 2017 they started National Assessment report that was published in 2018, clearly entailing how the country was doing on money laundering and that it comes with other crimes embedded within it.