The West African regional anti-graft organization, the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) has organized a two-day sensitization seminar for religious leaders and representatives of civil society organizations in Monrovia.
The seminar, under the theme: “National Sensitization Seminar for Religious Leaders and Institutions, on Implementing Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism,” brought religious leaders from the Christian and Muslim faiths from all over the country.
Remarking at the opening of the seminar, the Director General of the GIABA, Edwin Harris, appealed religious leaders to join efforts aimed at combating money laundering and terroristic financing in the West African region.
According to him, criminals are now using weaker institutions such as churches and Mosques for money laundering and terrorist financing. He said the increase in illicit income-generating crimes such as corruption, kidnapping, and human and drug trafficking in the West African sub-region is worrisome.
“This is in addition to the high level of violence, extremism, and other challenges associated with these vices,” he said; adding: “ it is, therefore, important to engage and utilize the tremendous influences of religious leaders in addressing some of the ills ravaging our society.”
According to the GIABA Head in Liberia, the seminar is a clearing call to all spectrum of the Liberian society to play the role of keeping and securing a viable economic and peaceful nation and the West African region through the instrumentality of religion.
In remarks, the Officer in Charge of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Emmanuel Gee, encouraged the religious leaders to be very observant of individuals making huge finances to their institutions for causing trouble. According to him, the danger caused by money laundering and terrorist financing to any given economy cannot be overemphasized.
“Launderers and financiers of terrorists take advantage of vulnerabilities in laws, procedures, and systems to commit heinous crimes by themselves or in association with enablers and gatekeepers.”
“The risk of using religious agenda to perpetrate crimes of money laundering and terrorists financing through not-for-profit organizations (NPOs) has been identified as high and therefore measures are being taken to address such vulnerabilities in many jurisdictions including Liberia.”
“Awareness and sensitization are key measures to preparing and exposing actors of vulnerable sectors to take due care, prevent and report suspicious activities to the FIUL, Ministry of Justice, and Law Enforcement Agencies “
Delivering the keynote speech, the Deputy Finance Minister, Augustus Flomo, who represented the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, said it is important that the religious community continues to play the role of integrity.
He described the religious community as an important partner and cautioned them to be mindful of the source of funding for their charity from some partners.
Minister Flomo cautioned the religious Leaders not to work with people who are trying to turn their bad money into success and want to go through the Churches and Mosques.
According to him, the government has put in place the necessary laws aimed at regulating money laundering and terrorist financing in the country.
Speaking on behalf of the Resident Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission, Josephine Nkrumah, the Political Officer and Early Warning Focal Person, Nathaniel Walker, said wealth obtained through fraudulent means is the root of all evil.
He added that depriving others and the system of working effectively can cause death and destruction in the form of what is referred to as terrorist financing.
Walker expressed the hope that the religious leaders will use and share the knowledge so as to protect Liberia and the rest of the West African regional organization from money laundering and terrorist financing
The seminar is expected to end with the Christian and Muslim leaders issuing a joint communiqué aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing in the country and the rest of the West African region.