November 15, 2013

Legal practitioner and Member of Parliament(MP) for Effutu, Mr. Alexander Afenyo-Markin, says the decision of the Financial Intelligence Centre to investigate Victoria Hamah for money laundering is wrong and unlawful.

He says the FIC was clearly acting outside its mandate as laid down in the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2008 (Act 749) that established it.

Apparently acting on comments by Ms. Hamah on a leaked tape that she would not pick up fights with her superiors and risk her appointment as deputy Communications Minister if she could not boast of a million dollars, the FIC wrote to banks requesting the bank details of Ms. Hamah.

The letter, signed by the Chief Executive Officer of the FIC, Mr. Samuel Thompson Essel and addressed to all banks said, “Pursuant to Section 28 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2008 (Act 749), please furnish us with the following information on [Victoria Hamah],

Mandate and Account opening forms
Evidence of Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD)
Legible copy of photo identity
All transaction statements (Bank/Investment statement).”

The FIC hoped to receive responses from the banks by Friday, November 15, 2013, to further its investigations into the financial transactions of the dismissed Deputy Minister, who it said “has come under security notice.”

But speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Friday, on the subject, Mr. Afenyo-Markin said he did not believe Ms. Hamah had committed any offence to warrant the investigations.

He said, “Mr. Essel’s interpretation of the law is completely wrong [because] Section 1(1) of Act 749 defines what money laundering is.” According to the section, “A person commits the offence of money laundering if the person knows or ought to have known that property is or forms part of the proceeds of unlawful activity and the person,

Converts, conceals, disguises, or transfers the property
Conceals or disguises the unlawful origin of the property or
Acquires, uses or takes possession of the property.”

The opposition MP noted that clearly Ms. Victoria Hamah, “has not laundered any money, this woman has not been indicted by anybody; no suspicious transaction report has been filed against her by her bank; she’s committed a political blander, she is paying the political consequences for it,” but she has not committed a crime.

Mr. Afenyo-Markin believes that the FIC is simply engaged in a Public Relations gimmick.

He said there were far more serious matters that needed the FIC’s investigations, citing Fortis’ acquisition of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT’s) shares in Merchant Bank and the guinea fowl project between the Savanna Accelerated Development Authourity and Asongtaba that gained national attention early this year.

He called for the immediate resignation of the CEO of the FIC, Mr S.T. Essel.

Supporting Mr. Afenyo-Markin’s argument on the legality of the investigations against Ms. Hamah, private legal practitioner, Mr. Dennis Adjei Dwomoh, said the comments of Ms. Hamah neither fall under Section 1(1) of Act 749 or Section 2, which deals with financing terrorism.

He said even if the FIC founded its action on suspicions that the sacked deputy minister may have engaged in some impropriety to necessitate the investigation, that suspicion must be based on reasonable belief.

“The belief must be based on permissible standards and not a belief as in your believe in God or you believe in Harikrishna;…for the belief to be reasonable, there are certain basic fundamental [thing] that you have to demonstrate for it to ground your belief,” he stated.

Mr. Dwomoh stressed that as far as he was concerned, the former deputy Communications Minister’s comments fell outside the ambit of the law which the FIC sought to rely on to investigate her.’