The National Council yesterday asked its economic affairs committee to compile the members’ recommendations on the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Bill 2017 and present it next week for debate and adoption.

Introducing the bill in the house, finance minister Namgay Dorji said that the objectives of the Bill, is to prevent money laundering and counter financing of terrorism.

The minister said that having local financial services of international standards through such legislation and institutions help domestic institutions in dealing with institutions abroad.

The economic affairs committee chairperson and the member from Gasa, Sangay Khandu said the bill repeals 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.

While the Council’s economic affairs committee agrees to most of the changes proposed by the National Assembly, it did not agree on 35 provisions of the bill.

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 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 were reasonable suspicions that the property may be proceeds of or be connected with some form of criminal activity committed in either Bhutan or outside.

Trongsa member Tharchen said there should also be a provision to compensate the accused if not proven guilty.  “Then the loss accrued to the person should be paid with interest,” he said.

The bill calls for the establishment of a national coordination committee to coordinate the implementation of the national anti-money laundering (AML) and countering financing of terrorism (CFT) strategy, 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 that arise from time to time.

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.

According to the bill, if a person 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 the offence of money laundering.

An individual 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.

Council chairperson Sonam Kinga asked the committee to compile and discuss the recommendations from the members before presenting the bill for final discussion next week.

The House will table the media bill 2017 on Monday.

Tshering Palden