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The Senate has approved the Company (Amendment) Act 2023, which will enable Jamaica to meet international obligations in combating money laundering and terrorism financing.
The Bill was approved on 31st March 2023 and aims to address three of four outstanding actions agreed upon in Jamaica’s action plan with FATF (Financial Action Task Force) as the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing framework. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Senator the Hon, Kamina Johnson Smith, piloted the Bill.
She stated, “We are in imminent danger of being blacklisted by the FATF and this is a status that would seriously affect our ability to do business. It would affect not only the government [but] it would affect business, it would affect individuals because what it would do is change the level of risk that countries and businesses outside of Jamaica view doing business with Jamaica and Jamaicans.”
“It would say that our systems are not sufficiently robust in terms of their prevention of anti-money laundering and the financing of terrorism and, therefore, that they need to close down systems or implement countermeasures against our systems, which would, of course, be unbearable,” Mrs Johnson Smith added.
She emphasised that the Act will address the nation’s existing rating in relation to recommendation 24, dealing with beneficial ownership and transparency of legal persons. The Minister stated that although the amendments were undertaken in 2017, “it was assessed that those amendments did not go far enough, primarily due to the following deficiencies which we seek to address.”
“One, that not all legal persons are required to maintain current and accurate information on directors, shareholders and beneficial owners; two, there is no active monitoring conducted by competent authorities to ensure that basic beneficial ownership information is current for all legal persons and arrangements; and three, there are no appropriate provisions to ensure that effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions are applied against companies that do not comply with filing and record-keeping requirements and obligations to update beneficial ownership information,” Minister Johnson Smith stated.
She elaborated that the amendments will address risk-based assessment matters. The Bill aims to ensure the Companies Act comply with the FATF standards related to beneficial ownership of firms and will empower the registrar of companies with regulatory oversight to verify beneficial ownership data. It also seeks to provide a mutual exchange gateway of information between the registrar and competent authorities including foreign bodies.
She also disclosed that the Company’s Office has also set up a new money laundering unit and undertaken an ICT infrastructure upgrade to boost its capacity.