â€¦as Unit Director remains suspended pending corruption investigations
The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Legal and Information Officer, Jonathan Phakisi said that the unit is prepping to eliminate the existence of Money laundering in the country.
Phakisi who currently occupies the Acting Directorâ€™s office said this in the opening of the 39th and 40thEastern and Southern Africa Anti Money-Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) conference where the Ministry of Finance led the task force of senior officials this week in Maseru.
The groupâ€™s mandate is to assess its member countries regarding the fight against money laundering. The group meets twice a year, March, April or May, then at the end of the year. According to Phakisi, the group could not meet this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
â€œAfter Senior Officials seating we normally hold Council of Ministers which is built of Finance Ministers. The mandate is to assess whether the countries have enough strategies and laws to fight money laundering,â€ he said.
â€œThere is also a world Organisation called Financial Action Task Standards Force which sets standards, when countries comply with such standards they will know that such a country is fighting money laundering,â€ he said.
He outlined that the country has rolled sleeves to combat money laundering as there are many confiscated resources by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offense (DCEO).
â€œOur country is serious in fighting the offense because lately there are many strides happening. There are many confiscation orders which shows progress unlike in the past where only resources were taken from the criminals. DCEO has made many applications to make forfeiture orders to take the resources from the criminals,â€ he said.
â€œThere is a survey that we have been instructed to carry out by ESAAMLG in relation to the trends of money laundering during the time of Covid-19, the survey is not yet complete.
â€œIn 2017 we created a National Risk Assessment (NRA), its report was released in 2018, the report shows our status as a country, it shows the crime trends which were carried under that study and what kind of crime vehicles are commonly used to utilize money laundering,â€ he said.
â€œThe corruption statistics at DCEO stipulate how much the government is doing to curb the state of corruption. We also fight corruption together with DCEO and other entities, and that shows how serious we are. It is a large number of strides.
Contrary to the strong grip of the Acting Director statement, the Unitâ€™s Director, Palesa Khabele was suspended on allegations of fraud and corruption that include the abuse of power last month.
Khabele was suspended after the National Assemblyâ€™s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) unveiled corruption that contain the unlawful authorisation of advance salary of M60 000 which she relished without following proper procedures.
Although Khabele boycotted the PAC grilling citing illness, the committee discovered lack of transparency and failure to follow the policies that govern the Unit as she was reported to have directed her second and third lower ranked employees to sign for her salary advance back in 2016.
However, Phakisi continued that the fight against money laundering needs collaboration from other law enforcement institutions like Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS), Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) and courts of Law.
â€œThe Money laundering battle is not only a case of FIU; a fight against it needs unity from different institutions including law enforcement agencies, courts of law and the private sector. We are at the centre of all these issues; meaning when we recognise a case relating to money laundering offence we disseminate the information to the enforcement agencies like LRA, LMPS and DCEO.
â€œEven the law enforcement passes such cases to the prosecution which also reports to the courts of law, itâ€™s a chain of work. We get information from the banks, accountants, lawyers and the nation as well.
â€œMoney laundering is associated with other crimes; everywhere there is a crime there is money laundering, especially the financial crimes. According to its description, it is very broad and most of the times it relates to other crimes,â€ he said.
He continued that they (FIU) where supposed to draft five laws which were supposed to be presented before parliament. He said they successfully jotted only three and failed to complete the two.
â€œThere are five laws that we were supposed to have drafted and submitted to parliament. Among others is the drug abuse law which we had to amend. In all these five laws, we only completed three laws and failed to complete the remaining two.
â€œThe other thing that we had to complete as Lesotho is case management system, there isnâ€™t much progress that we have accomplished in that issue, we are expected to state when we think we will complete it,â€ he said. dpriority62