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

The Bill was passed in the 9th session of the Assembly and was forwarded to the upper house.

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

Most of the members agreed on the changes recommended by the Council.

Finance Minister Namgay Dorji said that it was an important Bill the Parliament needed to pass at the earliest. He said that it would help Bhutan get access to financial assistance from international agencies and other countries.

“The differences between the two houses are minor,” he said.

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

When it passed the Bill during the 9th session, the Assembly voted for having a “director” as the head of the department. The Council replaced the word director with “head of the department”. Most of the members said they were willing to accept the change.

Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that it was not necessary to specify the name of the post for the head of the Financial Intelligence Department.

“For example, the Unites States do not call the head of their ministries minister. So, there is no need to prescribe the name of the head of the department as director,” he said.

The Assembly had passed that the staff of the department would serve on secondment for a fixed term of five years and that their service may be extended for another two years. However, the Council reduced the fixed term to three years and a possible extension of service by two years.

Most of the members agreed to the change.

The department will be vested with power to access and share information with foreign counterparts.

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

A person would be guilty of 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