The government has failed yet again to get the amended Anti-money Laundering (AML) Bill approved from the Senate Standing Committee on Finance.
Although the Standing Committee Chairman, Senator Saleem Mandviwalla, leaned towards approving the the bill, there were other legislators who did not leave any space for him to put the proposed piece of legislation for voting.
Due to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government is obliged to make amends to the AML Act of 2010, which seeks to include fiscal crimes as offences of anti-money laundering. This inclusion of the fiscal crime is the major reason why parliamentarians and other government officials seem to disagree about the bill.
The government was anticipating to have the bill approved by the standing committee on finance before the scheduled meetings with IMF, which are happening this week. In fact, the IMF had received a written assurance by the the government that the parliament would adopt the amendments to the AML bill by September. However, after the deadline was crossed, the IMF gave another deadline of November for the approval.
Another meeting has been scheduled by Mandviwalla for October 28 in the hopes that it will help government get the bill passed during the IMF meetings.
The IMF has demanded that it wants serious tax crimes and the definition of ‘politically exposed persons’ to be made a part of the AML Act. The objective of the proposed amendments is to make sure that anti-money laundering tools can make the detection of potential cases of abuse of the investment incentive scheme to launder criminal proceeds, possible, and fight tax evasion.
Senator Kamil Agha (PML-Q) disliked the addition of Section 192 of Income Tax Ordinance that deals with the prosecution for submission of false tax statement and section 194 – prosecution for improper use of National Tax Number. Senator Agha claimed that these crimes are not related to money laundering and can be dealt with already existing laws.
Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq (PML-Q), who supports the bills, asked about the motives of opposing the bill, and suggested that whoever was opposing the bill might be scared of having his or her corruption exposed.
The parliamentarians are concerned that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) might misuse the AML Act against politicians. However, Dr Waqar verified that the FBR would need permission from the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) before putting the AML Act into action for tax related crimes. He was not able to convince the parliamentarians, though.
The bill is currently pending with the Senate standing committee since February, earlier this year.