Without parliament, enactment of three AML hit snag
MILAN MANI SHARMA
KATHMANDU, May 29: Unexpected termination of Constituent Assembly (CA), which was also functioning as Legislature Parliament, without due outcome has ran cold water on Nepal´s chances of formally enacting three anti-money laundering (AML) related laws, something which are crucial for the country to prevent itself from blacklisting when the global AML body meet in Rome in June.
Going by the commitment that the government made in the February meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global AML body, Nepal was required to enact Extradition Bill, Mutual Cooperation Bill and Bill to Control Organized Crime through the Parliament.
Top Nepali officials in their recent face-to-face meeting with the regional wing of the body had briefed them that the bills were already tabled in the parliament and the country would enact them through the parliament as soon as the last session of CA ratify the new constitution.
“Not only did the country not get the new constitution, unexpected demise of CA and the Parliament has closed the possibility of formulating those crucial laws,” said a member of a high-level AML Coordination Committee.
If the country failed to adhere to June deadline, officials said the country will certainly face the wrath of the international community and will be blacklisted in Rome meeting, which has been slated through June 18-22. If that happened, the international community would instantly stop honoring letters of credit and payments issued by Nepali traders.
While that will seriously jeopardize country´s overseas trade, donors too might stop issuing aid and foreign investors would be encouraged to pull out their investments.
Failing to fulfill commitments made at the international forum, Nepal found itself on the verge of being blacklisted by the FATF in February itself, but escaped the action at the last minute after Prime Minister Babu Ram Bhattarai personally promised to enact the laws and comply with the directives issued by the global body.
“It was our good luck that FATF gave us one more chance. And we are worried now because it has made clear it is the last chance to comply with the international AML norms,” said the official.
Given the situation, officials said there is one way through which the country can salvage its position: enforcement of those laws in the form of ordinances. “It is apparently the only feasible option,” said the source.
The option appears an easy way out too because the three bills tabled in the parliament had drawn strong criticism and protest from various political groups, including the Baidya faction of the UCPN (Maoist). “But our concern is, such a move might only add fuel to current chaos,” said the source.
Considering the situation, officials in the high-level AML Coordination Committee said they will wait for a few days for current political imbroglio to settle, and start approaching the government as well as leaders from various political parties for building an environment to issue ordinances.
“PM Bhattarai is already aware of the risks ahead. Hopefully other officials will understand the country´s situation and act sensibly,” said the source.