He stressed that building an effective and robust Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financial Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime at the national levels required action at many levels and governments were expected to set up the appropriate inter-ministerial structures, together with the development of a national strategy for dealing with AML/CFT deficiencies.
Mr Amissah-Arthur made the call when addressing participants at a Regional Workshop on AML/CFT in Accra.
The two-day workshop being orgainsed by Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) for Chief Executive Officers and Chief Compliance Officers of financial institutions in ECOWAS Member States was to create a platform for sharing ideas and best practices among bank and non-banking institutions in the Region.
It would help sensitise the banking industry to play their expected role.
Mr Amissah-Arthur said there were currently strategic deficiencies identified in AML/CFT regimes across West Africa, citing limitations in legislative and regulatory regimes, as well as weak technical and administrative capacity of intelligence units and law enforcement agencies.
He stressed that although Ghana had long been committed to the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, with the passage of an AML Act in 2008 and criminalisation of some predicate offences, the downgrading of Ghana by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in a report released on February 16, 2012, had energised the country to re-double its efforts to build a robust AML/CFT regime.
Mr Amissah-Arthur said the country had resolved to remove the remaining obstacles which included the implementation and monitoring of AML/CFT strategies pointed out by the report, to help get the country de-listed from the FATF black list in the shortest possible time.
He said the workshop was critical to Ghana, following FATF report which urged Ghana among other things, to work on implementing her action plan to criminalise money laundering and terrorist financing and establishing and implementing adequate measures for the confiscation of funds related to money laundering.
Mr Amissah-Arthur said the report urged Ghana to ensure the establishment of a fully operational and effectively functioning Financial Intelligence Unit, and establish and implement adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets.
He said FATF recommendations imposed a responsibility on financial institutions, to implement effective AML/CFT measures and intensified roles of regulators to carry out supervisory activities to ensure that banks and other financial institutions were not only effectively implementing the recommendations, but ensuring that criminals and their associates were not misusing the banking system.
Mr Amissah-Arthur however, said since the release of the FATF report, Ghana had taken various measures to stem the activities of money laundering and financial terrorists by actively engaging banking and non-banking institutions in the country to develop and institute enhanced due diligence on certain customers, while Compliance Officers were to follow up on all transactions and customers.
He announced the establishment and operation of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), which was currently fully functional and received analysis and disseminated AML/CFT information to appropriate State agencies for the necessary redress.
Mr Amissah-Arthur explained that the work of the Centre had been complemented with the establishment of an AML/CFT office within the Banking Supervision function, to lead the BoG’s own efforts in spearheading AML/CFT matters in the banking and non-bank financial system. He said the office developed and disseminated guidelines on AML/CFT for banks and non-banking institutions to ensure that banks dealt with known persons and institutions and confirmed that such customers were fit and proper to and undertake legitimate business.
Mr Amissah-Arthur noted that addressing the legislative gaps provided the impetus for dealing with the enforcement issues, with the complementary roles of bankers and regulators.
The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act, Act 842 of 2012 has recently been enacted to empower the Attorney-General to issue instructions by Executive Instrument and following this, bank and other non-banking institutions are now required to submit Suspicious Transaction Treports (STRs) involving terrorism financing.
In addition, Parliament was currently considering the criminalisation of the remaining four predicate offences, the Extradition Bill and the Anti-Terrorism regulations.