Council adopts Anti- Money Laundering bill

Returns the amended bill to the NA

The National Council unanimously adopted the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Bill, 2017 with a majority vote on November 29.

The amended bill will be forwarded to the National Assembly for re-deliberation. If National Assembly accepts all proposals made by the NC on the bill, the bill would be submitted for Royal Assent. If not, the bill will be deliberated in a joint sitting of the Parliament on the disputed sections of the bills.

Chairperson to the Economic Affairs Committee and Gasa NC member Sangay Khandu presented the final recommendations on the bill. He presented the changes made by the committee on various sections of the bill, which was resolved during an in-house committee meeting.

Sangay Khandu said that while the committee agreed to most of the changes proposed by the National Assembly, it did not agree on 35 provisions.

The bill, when passed, will repeal numerous sections of the Financial Services Act of Bhutan 2011, the Penal Code of Bhutan, the Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act 2015, and the Anti-Corruption Act.

The objective of the Bill is to prevent money laundering and counter financing of terrorism.

According to the Bill, an independent and autonomous financial intelligence department will be established within the Royal Monetary Authority.

The department will be vested with the power to access information from a foreign counterpart and to provide information to a foreign counterpart. The department could issue a temporary freeze notice over a property for a period not exceeding 21 days if there are reasonable suspicions that the property may be proceeds of some form of criminal activity committed in either Bhutan or outside.

The department will have the power to request information from a foreign counterpart and to provide information to a foreign counterpart as prescribed in the rules and regulation. It can also ask any ministry or government agency to produce to it within a reasonable period, information that is held by that ministry or government agency that is relevant to an analysis being undertaken by the department.

A national coordination committee will be established to coordinate the implementation of the national anti-money laundering (AML) and countering financing of terrorism (CFT) strategy. The committee will coordinate the undertaking of any national AML and CFT risk assessment or the updating of such an assessment, and advise the Cabinet in connection with AML and CFT issues.

The coordination committee comprises members from Anti-Corruption Commission, Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority, Office of the Attorney General, Police, immigration department, and RMA, among others.

If a person, according to the bill, 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, then the person commits an offence of money laundering.

Bhutan is signatory to the UNs International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and is a member of the Asia Pacific group on money laundering.

Tshering Palden

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