The conference which is hosting 15 member countries from ECOWAS states is being held at the Radisson Blu Hotel at Aberdeen in Freetown.
Money laundering and terrorist financing are forms of transnational organized crime that pose serious threat to peace and security at national, regional and international levels.
According to the Director of Programs and Projects of GIABA, Dr. Buno Nduka, the objective of the conference, is to build the technical capacity of law enforcement bodies to emphasize the existence and relevance of financial and trade data, crime targeting and the necessary analytical skills.
He added that the expression of solitude and consideration by Sierra Leonean authorities is reflected in all facilities made available to the various delegations in the conference. Citing the importance of the conference he said international trade is of critical importance for a number of African economies with more than 90% of African countries imports and export being shipped by sea. Due to the lack of security at sea and the shortfalls of the international trade control system, these vulnerabilities are exploited by criminal organizations and terrorist groups to transfer funds for illegitimate purposes. Mr. Nduka said during the conference experts with extensive experience in maritime security will explain how various techniques can be employed to use the maritime sector for the purpose of transnational organized crimes and the laundering of the proceeds of criminal activities.
Delivering her statement, the deputy minister of finance Dr. Patricia Laverley pointed out that, the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing has gained a global appeal due to threats they pose to the integrity of financial services and its implication to state security, stability and the rule of law. She pointed out the negative effect on money laundering and terrorist financing on economic development and to the nation are difficult to quantify, but however clear that the prevalence of it in a country generate more crime and corruption. This she say will further serve to slow down economic growth, international trade and capacity flows. Money laundering and terrorist financing can also harm the soundness of the country’s financial sector, as well as the stability of individual financial institutions.
The deputy minister of finance committed the support of the government of President Julius Maada Bio’s in ensuring that Sierra Leone fulfil its obligations in this global fight.
“Our government in the last six months has also implemented series of measures aimed at strengthening the anti-corruption agency and blocking leakages in public financial management”…the deputy minister said.
She said while the maritime space offers such huge opportunity, it has vulnerabilities that don’t only threaten its sustainable growth but also the security of the sub-region. Some of the vulnerabilities include; limited patrol on our territorial waters, inadequate regulations in the fishing industry and lack of infrastructure to support trade and investments.
In concluding, she expressed optimism that at the end of the three day conference, there would be enhanced money laundering analysis in maritime sector of member states, improvement in compliance level of financial and maritime institutions and less incidences of money laundering and terrorist financing in maritime space. Also that it will boost security in the region particularly within the Gulf of Guinea against maritime threats, reduce illegitimate trade and establish solid financial systems
This three day conference will look at the international standard on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorist and financing of proliferation which will be presented by the head of Programmes GIABA Dr. Buno Nduka, overview of money laundering in the maritime sector presented by Konan Djaha-Enforcement officer for GIABA, International legal framework for combating maritime piracy among many others.