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The Senate on Thursday (Dec. 2) approved amendments to three pieces of legislation, which seek to further improve the operation, management and regulation of the island’s financial sector. These are the Financial Institutions Act, the Banking Act and the Building Societies Act.
Piloting the Bills, Leader of Government Business in the Upper House, Senator Burchell Whiteman, said the changes to the principal Acts were necessary to enhance economic development and prevent any curtailment of sustainable growth due to financial crimes.
“Crime is crime whatever its form and it is an inhibitor of investment, economic growth and human and social development,” he told the Senate.
He informed that the amendments had emerged from the recommendations of the Financial Crimes Legislative Taskforce, which had considered international best practices, the views of local practitioners and Jamaica’s treaty obligations particularly in respect of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
He said the Bills sought to establish clear channels for the sharing of information with regulatory agencies locally and internationally, with the appropriate mechanisms for control.
Secondly, they seek to empower financial system regulators to take action including the revocation of licenses in cases where a financial institution is found to be in breach of criminal statutes relating to money laundering or any other statute relating to a financial crime.
Furthermore, Senator Whiteman said, the amendments to the Financial Institutions Act and the Banking Act, served to broaden the range of conditions, which were subject to corrective action for contravention of any provision under the Money Laundering Prevention Act or any other Act, which imposes obligations on a bank or licensee.
Breaches under the Banking Act will attract fines of $150,000 for failure to make returns to the appropriate authority for each day that the breach continues and $250,000 up from $25,000 under the Financial Institutions Act.
Meanwhile, the amendments to the Building Societies Act are mainly to provide for an increase in penalties for offences by corporate bodies and to bring them in line with current monetary values as well as to expand the definition given for “financial institutions”.