Debate opened in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (Oct. 15) on amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (POCA) Act.

The changes will better enable Jamaica to meet its international obligations regarding anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism.

Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, who opened the debate, said that the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), in its 2017 Mutual Evaluation Report, said that of the 40 recommendations against money laundering and terrorist financing, Jamaica is partially compliant with 21, and non-compliant with two.

The recommendations, developed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), aim to increase transparency and enable countries to successfully take action against the illicit use of their financial system.

Dr. Chang said that Jamaica must address these technical compliance deficiencies with urgency.

He noted that Jamaica’s correspondent banking relationships with other countries is at risk and will be subject to sanctions if the recommendations are not implemented soon.

Dr. Chang said that the amendments also aim to protect the integrity of the country’s financial system while enhancing crime fighting.

He noted that the National Security Policy has identified as a high probability threat, the issue of transnational organised crime, including trafficking in narcotics, money laundering, cybercrime, lottery scamming, identity theft and fraud.

As such, he said, “it is important that the Government ensures that a robust framework exists to identify and prevent criminal elements from utilizing the legitimate financial system for their own benefit and in strengthening their own criminal organisations.”

The proposed amendments also seek to make the financial sector more inclusive; make it easier for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to access loans; and increase due diligence measures for businesses or transactions from countries identified by the FATF, as having weak anti-money laundering systems.

Debate on the bill is expected to continue in the next sitting of the House.  POCA was passed by Parliament in 2007 to replace the Money Laundering Act (MLA) and provides for the investigation, identification and recovery of the proceeds of crime and connected matters.