“If ICAC is serve as a role model for the coming Financial Crimes Commission, then forget about fighting financial crimes”

Financial Crimes

Qs & As

By Lex

An apex body, call it a Financial Crime Commission, to oversee or coordinate the six different agencies involved in investigating or preventing financial crimes, has been recently mooted by the PM, as did his predecessor late SAJ in 2016. Who would appoint their members or head such a Commission and with what degree of independence and credibility, given the current context and experience at ICAC, may plead for a reputable expatriate with constitutional protections? Lex shares his views and perspective on the real political will to stamp out corruption or another window-dressing exercise that might look good on paper.

 * In his address to the forum organised by the ICAC, Bank of Mauritius and Mauritius Bankers Association, last Friday, PM Pravind Jugnauth stated that the appropriate legislation for the setting up of a Financial Crime Commission (FCC) will be worked out soon. A similar announcement was made by Sir Anerood Jugnauth on 7 June 2016 in reply to a PQ pertaining to the proposed setting up of a FCC. What do you make out of these announcements?

The Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth, and his predecessor have made noble flamboyant announcements. The purpose of the announcements is to set up a Financial Crime Commission in a bid to ensure greater coordination among law enforcement agencies and to reinforce public-private partnership in combating financial crime. Very noble intention indeed! Let us see how it works out in practice if ever it sees the light of day. If ICAC is serve as a role model for the coming Commission, then forget about fighting financial crimes.

* SAJ said in 2016 that the proposed FCC would be “an apex body to combat white collar crimes, fraud and financial crimes and more importantly to provide the synergy between the various law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies”. We have currently six agencies involved in tracking financial crime, namely the ICAC, the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Mauritius Revenue Authority, the Financial Services Commission, the Integrity Reporting Services Agency, the Gambling Regulatory Authority? Will a seventh bring clarity or more confusion to the fight against financial crime?

We are already projecting a very bad image of the corruption that has pervaded most of our institutions. Will a new institution make any difference? What we need is firm political will across party lines to combat financial crimes. If that new Commission will only serve to appoint another political protégé, then we cannot expect anything from it.

* There could be competing agendas, limited communication and information-sharing, mistrust as well as capacity differences between the different agencies at work in the fight against financial crime, thus the need for “synergy”, as mentioned by SAJ, but could there be some other motive behind the proposed setting up of a FCC?

It’s not quite clear given the absence of precise details regarding the proposed new Commission.

There exists already a problem of mistrust between ICAC and the Integrity Reporting Services Agency, which took the unusual route of dragging another State institution – the ICAC – to court for allegedly failing to fulfil its statutory obligations, as prescribed by law, to submit detailed reports instead of summary notes on suspected cases of unexplained wealth.

The situation is already bad enough. Will the new Commission absorb all the existing institutions or will the institutions function under the umbrella of the Commission? We do not know, so let’s wait and see.

* What’s on the drawing board is about the setting up a superagency to combat financial crimes – and the likely appointment of a financial crime czar at its head. Would it be advisable for the government to choose from any one of the present heads of the six agencies mentioned earlier to head the FCC?

This could be the case according to persistent rumours. If that is so, then we will end up with yet another institution that will be at the beck and call of the government — and you can bet that there will not be much in terms of achievements in the fight against financial crimes. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 16 December 2022

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