MASERU- Ministry of Finance, through its Financial Intelligent Unit (FIU) on Thursday announced that effective from the 1st of March 2017, the general public will be required to declare currency or Bearer Negotiable Instruments (BNIs) in their possession if its value is equal or above M25, 000.
In a telephone interview, Jothame Phakisi from FIU told this paper that the initiative is a requirement of the law as per section 28 of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act No. 4 of 2008, read with section 22 of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act No. 7 of 2016.
He said this initiative is also backed up by Declaration of Currency Notice No. 34 of 2014 and the Money Laundering (Currency and Bearer Negotiable Instruments Declaration) Regulations No. 68 of 2015.
“The aim is to fight money laundering and terrorist financing associated with cash couriers. However, this does not include licensed money remittance services,” he said.
Phakisi indicated that in order for his ministry to accomplish this mission, there will be declaration forms designed specifically for individuals to declare the said property as they cross the borders.
“These forms are administered by customs officials stationed at ports of entry/departure. The money laundering regulations allow customs officials to require production and declaration of currency or BNIs carried if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the currency or BNIsexceed the prescribed amount,” he said.
He cited that the money laundering regulations allowed Customs officials to inspect or search persons, luggage, and means of transport to ensure compliance with the duty to disclose and declare.
“And also detain the currency or BNIs not declared in accordance with the requirement of the law. The declared information is shared with the FIU for analysis points to a commission of a serious offence, including money laundering or terrorist financing, an intelligence report is disseminated to a law enforcement agency with the necessary powers to deal with the offence in question.”
Phakisi also mentioned that an individual or company found guilty of money laundering offence will get imprisonment for a period not exceeding 25 years or a fine not exceeding M25 million or both in the case of a natural person, and in the case of a legal person, a fine not exceeding M100 million.
He further indicated that this initiative will have a positive impact on the economy of the country as substantial amounts of money crossing the borders in unpaid taxes will be recovered, and also currency suspected to be related to money laundering or terrorist financing will be impounded.
“Financial services operating in the country will be utilized as opposed to physical transportation of cash. Informed economic policy considerations and decisions will be made on account of availability of information of the movement of cash in and out of the country,” he said.
Even though Lesotho has not yet established statistical data on the gravity of financial offences, Phakisi indicated that offences such as trafficking in human beings, migrant smuggling, sexual exploitation, including sexual exploitation of children, illicit trafficking in stolen and other goods; corruption and bribery, counterfeiting currency, counterfeiting and piracy of products have elements of money laundering. As money laundering is associated with any criminal activity which is committed for financial gain.
He also added that there will be no deduction made by the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) for declaring their cash or BNIs.