The National Assembly will vote today on the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Bill 2017.

The objective of the Bill, which will be forwarded to the National Council for deliberation, is to prevent money laundering and counter financing of terrorism.

The Bill provides for establishment of a Financial Intelligence Department, which will be an independent and autonomous department within the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan.

The department will be vested with power to access information from a foreign counterpart and to provide information to a foreign counterpart.

The department will be headed by a director, whose term will be for five years.

Lamgong-Wangchag MP Khandu Wangchuk said the Director’s term should not be limited to five years given the confidential nature of the work involved.

The Economic Affairs Minister Lekey Dorji said that the director’s appointment should be kept flexible. Following the debate, the House resolved that the director would be eligible for re-appointment for a second term depending on his or her performance.

According to the Bill, the department will recruit civil servants on secondment.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that establishment of the department was not feasible for a small country like Bhutan. “Instead, establishment of a division should be enough,” he said.

Finance Minister Namgay Dorji explained that it was on the recommendation of international experts that establishment of the department was proposed.

“The department will help the government collaborate with foreign agencies such as the Asian Development Bank,” he said.

The department may issue a temporary freezing notice after obtaining court order over a property for a period not exceeding 21 days. Such actions would be taken if there is reasonable suspicion that the property may be proceeds of or be connected with some form of criminal activity committed in either Bhutan or outside.

A person commits an offence of money laundering, if he converts or transfers, exchanges or gives away a property knowing that it is proceeds of a money laundering offence, for the purpose of concealing the illicit origin of the property.

A person commits an offence of terrorism financing, if he or she intentionally or knowingly by any means, directly or indirectly, provides or collects funds with the intention or knowledge that such funds are to be used to carry out a terrorist act.

MB Subba