SA under international pressure for Fica bill

Cape Town – South Africa is under international pressure to finalise the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (Fica) bill, Parliament has heard.

“It’s an urgent bill ... we are under pressure internationally to comply,” Standing Committee on Finance Chairperson Yunus Carrim told committee members on Friday.

The Fica bill's aim is to enhance South Africa’s ability to combat financial crimes such as money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Treasury deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat told the committee in a briefing that current measures to combat financial crimes in SA have fallen behind since the enactment of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Act in 2001.

Momoniat compared delays in drafting the bill with “moving as fast as the slowest soldier”.

“... The slowest soldier here is certainly the definition of prominent persons which in our consultations took a long time,” Momoniat said.

He said the bill needed to make provision for the concept of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) which included among others judges, ministers, presidents, senior politicians, military officials, and senior executives.

Financial institutions were obligated to view PEPs in a different risk category.

Treasury executive manager for legal and policy Pieter Smit said that South Africa was lagging in implementing PEPs provisions because “we were not sure how widely to define this category of persons”.

According to Smit it was a balancing act between having as many people “under the watchful eye of financial institutions” and the viability of implementing the bill.

Carrim told Fin24 that the draft bill would go through a public hearing and consultation process next week which would then be considered by the Treasury.

Treasury Chief Director Olano Makhubela said South Africa was a member of the Financial Action Task Force intergovernmental body and that non-compliance could result in SA being put on a global ‘blacklist’.

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