On Wednesday, 29th May, 2013

Buenos días a todos. Me gustaría comenzar mi discurso, reconociendo y agradeciendo la presencia de:

Del Gobierno de Nicaragua:
Lic. Iván Acosta Montalván - Ministro de Hacienda y Crédito Público
Dr. Hernán Estrada - Procurador General de la República
Dr. Julio Centeno- Fiscal General de la República
Dr. Alberto Guevara Obregón Presidente del Banco Central
Dr. Marvin Aguilar García - Vicepresidente Corte Suprema de Justicia
Dr. Víctor Urcuyo- Superintendente de Bancos y Otras Instituciones Financieras

Por la empresa privada:
Dr. José Adán Aguerri, Presidente del COSEP
Ingeniero Juan Carlos Arguello, Presidente de la Asociación de Bancos
Licenciado Fernando Guzmán, Presidente de la Asociación de Microfinanzas

The Chairs and Co-Chairs of the CFATF Working Groups,

Representatives of CFATF members, including our friends and partners – the Cooperating and Supporting Nations and the Observers

Officials of the Government of Nicaragua who have taken time out of their busy schedules to be with us at this opening,

Members of the press and friends and well-wishers of the CFATF.
As a CFATF family we welcome all and singular to this opening of the XXXVII Plenary of the CFATF.

Being in Nicaragua for the past four-going-on-five days now has truly been a wonderful experience and one to be cherished for a very long time to come. To the Government of Nicaragua, let me on behalf of the CFATF and the entire CFATF family present in your country this week, thank you and the people of Nicaragua, for the kind reception and hospitality accorded to delegates to this CFATF Plenary. The reception of delegates at the Airport has gone tremendously well as has also been the case with the transportation arrangements. And the food is exceptional. To our delegates, if you have not tried the restaurants in Managua, then you don’t know what you’re missing. In particular, I thank the Government of Nicaragua for exceptionally waiving the fee payment requirement for delegates upon landing in Nicaragua. This magnanimous gesture is recognized and deeply appreciated.

I should also like to record, on behalf of the CFATF, my thanks and appreciation to Madam Ana Isabel Morales Mazun, Minister of Citizen Power for the Interior and President of the National Council Against Organised Crime – who unfortunately is not with us this morning as she is on her way overseas on an official mission – for her tenacity, dedication and seriousness of purpose towards matters concerning the CFATF and for the exceptional steps taken to interface with her Government to host this Plenary. At one point the CFATF Executive Director, Calvin Wilson, and I were in near limbo as to whether we would have any member volunteer to host this Plenary or whether we would fall back on Trinidad and Tobago as the default host jurisdiction and at enormous cost to the CFATF for that matter, especially at a time when we are trying to solidify the gains earned in stabilizing the financial situation of the CFATF. Therefore finalizing arrangements for this Plenary with the Government of Nicaragua is deeply appreciated.

We were pleased to welcome Ms Morales and her team to the Virgin Islands last November at the XXXVI Plenary of the CFATF. The personal involvement of Minister Morales and her lieutenants, in particular Mr. Dennis Membrenos Rivas, Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit, demonstrates the positive changes that can be attained in record speed when policy makers are directly involved in a member country’s AML/CFT reform agenda. Ms Morales was very clear in telling us that Nicaragua has the political commitment to AML/CFT reforms and, in particular, singled out the fact that such commitment came directly from the President of the Republic.

I make the observation that as at the last Plenary in November 2012, Nicaragua’s AML/CFT reform process was at a somewhat snail space. Between November 2012 and February 2013 - a space of three months – and with the undertaking of a technical mission to the country by the CFATF team of Mr. Eduardo Soto of the Superintendency of Banks of Guatemala and Alejandra Quevedo from the CFATF Secretariat, Nicaragua had netted impressive reforms. 6.    This was recognized by the FATF ICRG and Plenary in February 2013 such that Nicaragua, which was on the heel of suffering the fate of a public statement, was instead upgraded from the dark grey list to the light grey list on the compliance chart. This was a good achievement.

We recognize that Nicaragua still has some outstanding reforms to carry out and yesterday we were able to have an open and frank dialogue with the Minister of Finance along with the Attorney General, Members of the Supreme Court, Head of the microfinance sector, Superintendent of Banks, Director of the FIU and other key officials of Government institutions, to learn of the most recent developments and how we at the CFATF might be able t assist with Nicaragua’s reform agenda. I was impressed at the level of political and technical commitment. I therefore encourage the Government to trek on and complete as a matter of urgency all remaining reform agenda items. And in doing so, Nicaragua can count on the continuing full support of the CFATF.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this time of our history, the CFATF is at a cross-road. Having completed the Third Round of Mutual Evaluations we are, through the follow-up and ICRG processes, trying to get all members to carry out corrective measures as per the recommendations contained in their MERs. In addition, we are cognizant of the adoption of the revised Recommendations and Methodology and we must accordingly prepare our members to fulfill the technical and effectiveness compliance measures required of them in advance of their mutual evaluations for the Fourth Round. I therefore use this opportunity to call on all Members to prepare and face up to the challenges that lie ahead and, in carrying out their AML/CFT reforms, to seriously consider embodying those aspects of the revised Recommendations that are currently absent from their regimes. In other words, we must all consider the need for and importance of concurrent reforms to our AML/CFT regimes. Going into the fourth round of mutual evaluations, we will at some point in the near future have to make a determination on terminating the current follow up process and subsuming the required reform obligations into the fourth round of assessments.

We all recognize that money laundering is a scourge and we must apply collective efforts, both at the regional and international levels, if we expect to win the war … yes, the war, for that is what it is.  Those who engage in the activity of money laundering use and abuse the legitimate business structures that we offer; they distort our economies and have little to no respect for law and order. Those who engage in the financing of terrorism or in proliferation financing fall within this same realm of disrespect for law and order, and we must persevere for as long as it takes to preserve order within our societies. This way, we are able to contribute our important quota to global financial stability and security. It is only under those circumstances that our people can live freely with a modicum of certainty as to what the future holds for their economic well-being and the security of their communities.

In our endeavour to strengthen and promote our objective as an organization, we must never lose sight of our key function: the function of harnessing our resources – human, capital and otherwise – to effectively combat the activity of money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing. Our discussions must always revolve around this fundamental objective, bearing in mind that if we fail in our delivery of appropriate and effective measures to attain that objective, we would have failed in our quest in defending our region as a clean one.

In that context, the meeting of the CFATF family in Managua this week should be viewed not only as a gathering to discuss issues of mutual interest, but should also be demonstrative of the Caribbean Basin Region’s commitment to the global fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing. We speak with one voice, have one objective and are heading in the same direction – the direction that the Caribbean Basin Region is not for nefarious activity and that we are committed to upholding global standards in the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing.  

We must continue to assess our AML/CFT regimes and carry out with diligence all necessary reforms. No jurisdiction has a perfect regime, but all must rise well above the minimum threshold for effective AML/CFT compliance.

The CFATF has gone through a difficult period of reform, reflection and introspection. It was a trying period and one we had been able to scale through with success. Since the last Plenary the Steering Group, along with the CFATF Secretariat, has been very busy in piecing together the remaining areas of reform (and I’m sure the Plenary will hear more on this as we go through our agenda for the next two days). I can confidently say that we are now in the sustainability phase – we must therefore ensure that the achievements of the reform process are maintained well into the future for the good of our organization, but above all, for the good of the Caribbean Basin Region and for global security. We recognize that there are difficult periods ahead, but we must pledge to persevere and conquer; we must not look back with pessimism, but look ahead with optimism with our heads held high. Let us continue to work together to achieve our goals, cooperate to scale through difficulties, and peer review each other with transparency and fair and firm treatment, recognizing that our credibility and how we expect to be perceived remains in our own hands. Sometimes difficult decisions will necessarily have to be made. We must take those decisions without rancour, noting that our ultimate objective in coming together to dialogue is to reason with and assist each other to succeed as Members and thus attain the goals of the organization we all are proud to be a member of.

In this vein, I remind Members of the need for Members’ extraordinary contributions towards the work of the CFATF. I had earlier this year invited all prime contacts to consider making such contributions to the CFATF to lift our financial position to the desired level in the long term. One member has so far made an extraordinary contribution of US$60,000.00; some have made pledges, and we are yet to hear from others. We all recognize the difficult times we are in, but it is in our collective interest to make some effort.

Before I conclude, I would like to express, on your behalf, my profound thanks and appreciation to the Chairs and Co-Chairs of the various working groups of the CFATF and their members – the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG), Working Group on FATF Issues (WGFI), Working Group on Typologies (WGTYP), Accreditation Working Group (AWG) and Heads of FIUs. The assignments that these working groups carry out are tremendous and time consuming and require dedication and commitment. They contribute in no small measure to the maturity, credibility, strength and sense of purpose of the CFATF. And we as an organization must recognize the non-financial contribution that these dedicated and committed soldiers are carrying out on our behalf. So I say thank you to Sherene Murray-Bailey and Glenford Malone (ICRG Co-Chairs) and their indefatigable team of assessors; Cheryl Lister (Chair of WGFI) who has single-handedly been carrying on the Chair’s work since Francis Arana of the Cayman Islands demitted office in November 2012 (and we are pleased to welcome Cheryl Greenidge of Barbados in his place as Co-Chair) and the entire WGFI team; Jacqueline Sommersall, Patricia Rodriguez (Co-Chairs of WGTYP) and their entire team; Berdie Dickson-Daley (Chair of the Accreditation Working Group) and her entire team; and the Chairpersons of Heads of FIUs and their members. To this list I add our Executive Director, Calvin Wilson, and his entire staff at the Secretariat who make our work seem seamless. I also express gratitude on your behalf to the FATF for their continued support of the CFATF and, in particular, I single out the two Richards – Richard Chalmers and Richard Berkhout – who over the years have consistently given their time in educating and sharing with our Members important developments in the AML/CFT field. I trust that they will continue this invaluable service to our organization.

I implore all of our Members to join the working groups to share in the responsibility of running our organization. If we must be fair to ourselves and to the objective of the CFATF we must all bring our hands on deck and help out with the work. In this regard, I call on all Members, especially those that currently do not have any representation on any of the working groups, to seriously consider volunteering their services for our common good.

Finally, I would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to the hardworking staff of the Nicaraguan team that are doing everything humanly possible to make our stay and work here a joy to be remembered well beyond this week. We recognize and appreciate them. Indeed if there were a term that was more powerful than a simple “thank you” to demonstrate how well we appreciate their tireless efforts and the Nicaraguan Government’s political commitment to AML/CFT reforms and strengthening the work of the CFATF as demonstrated thus far, that term would have been rightly given. But nevertheless I express once again, on behalf of all the CFATF delegates, our big thanks and appreciation to the hardworking staff, and the Government and people of Nicaragua for so kindly hosting us in this country of kind and beautiful people.

And our work begins shortly. I thank you all very kindly.