Ghana records two money laundering convictions in 2016 – Report

Ghana recorded two money laundering convictions in 2016 as against five cases recorded in 2015, according to a new report from the United States Department of State.

The report, the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, says Ghana is gradually realizing both the risk money laundering injects into the country’s economic growth and with donor assistance, the country has recently produced money laundering national risk assessment to better understand and mitigate the country’s risks in this area.

Ghana’s anti-money laundering (AML) laws are largely compliant with international standards, although these laws are not often applied, it pointed out, adding, that money laundered in Ghana is linked to proceeds of narcotics trafficking, fraud, and public corruption.

The report cited romance scams, advance fee fraud, and other similar schemes as the most prevalent forms of financial crimes in the country.

Major vulnerabilities in Ghana’s AML regime are lack of enforcement actions and effective customer due diligence or Know Your Customer (KYC) identification adherence by most Designated Non-Financial Business Professions (DNFBPs), it indicated.

To address these and other money laundering  issues, the report recommended that the government of Ghana should allocate adequate funding to support the fight against money laundering, effectively implement relevant asset forfeiture laws and regulations, and sanction banks and other institutions that do not file Suspicious Transaction Report ( STRs) and currency transactions reports as required by Ghanaian law .

DNFBPs are most vulnerable to money laundering. These sectors include real estate agencies, casinos, dealers in precious metals, accountants, lawyers, notaries, car dealers, not-for-profit organisations, trust and company service providers, and remittance companies, it said.

The report noted that these sectors account for about 30 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employ about 25 per cent of the population, yet none of these institutions or their representatives have ever filed an STR.

It said Ghana is a cash dominant economy and as such, bulk cash smuggling is the most likely money laundering scheme attractive to launderers.

No banks in Ghana provide offshore banking services and Ghana has designated four Free Trade Zone (FTZ) areas, but only one, the Tema Export Processing Zone, is active, it further adds.

The report notes that the Ghanaian criminal justice system specifically outlawed financial crime with the 2008 Anti-Money Laundering Act. However, investigators and prosecutors lack specific training in this area, and those who undertake money laundering investigations are typically only trained in general crime investigation.

Financial crime cases, the report pointed out are prosecuted by state attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office and by police prosecutors, who are not attorneys.

On training, the report observed that several state attorneys have received general training in financial crime prosecution but only a few have specialized AML training.

Furthermore, there are no certified financial crime investigators trained in asset forfeiture in Ghana.

In 2016, parliament amended Ghana’s Companies Act, 1963 (Act 179) to establish a beneficial ownership register in the country.

Ghana recorded five money laundering convictions in 2015 and two in 2014, the report said.

By Pamela Ofori-Boateng

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