FIC Bill will be taken to Constitutional Court, warns PPF

Cape Town – The Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) will not hesitate to take the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Bill on constitutional review should President Jacob Zuma indeed sign the draft legislation into law. 
“We will continue to implore on the President of the Republic not to sign this Bill in its current calamity into law and if anything return it to Parliament for a complete overhaul,” the PPF said in a statement. 

The organisation reacted after National Treasury proposed some amendments to the Bill, following a renewed round of public hearings that had taken place on 25 January in Parliament. 

In the Treasury amendments, which are based on legal opinions, it is recommended that inspections may only be conducted to check compliance with provisions of the legislation. Searches with warrants of private residences or unlicensed businesses will only be permitted if the premises are used for doing business.  

READ: PPF, BBC don't speak for ANC on FIC Bill 

In addition, inspectors who are to conduct searches should get permission from senior staff members of the FIC before applying for a warrant. 

Warrantless searches on the other hand, may only occur during business hours or as close to such hours as possible, and should be done with as little disturbance as possible. 

The PPF's 'remedies'

Responding to the proposed changes, the PPF said it is concerned that National Treasury is now backtracking on the warrantless searches aspect, after spending “millions of rand on legal fees in order to convince the National Assembly and the people of South Africa that the Bill is entirely Constitutional”. 

“[This is] sadly at a cost of our people’s taxes and resources of stakeholders,” the PPF said. 

The body further advised Parliament and National Treasury to also “factor in” a number of additional “remedies” on some of the offending clauses. 

These remedies include that: 

- FIC Inspectors must first and foremost be vetted by our security agencies before getting access to the financial information of the citizens. 

 - FIC Inspectors should collate whatever information as required by the law but when criminality is detected they must hand over such information to the appropriate security authority – not the accounting authority institutions, which are banks in such a case. 

- Banks should not be allowed to be private courts when South Africa have “real” courts. 

READ: Zuma asked not to sign bill that will scrutinise bank deals 

- Section 205(3) of the Constitution, which empowers the SAPS as the only authority to investigate and combat crime must not be undermined. It must be noted that money laundering, corruption and financing terrorism are all criminal acts and thus fall under the jurisdiction of the police. 

- The Prominent Influential Persons (PIPs) inclusion goes beyond the requirements of the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is concerned only with Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs). This inclusion must be scrapped to ensure full compliance with FATF recommendations. The inclusion of PIPs is an affront to equality before the law.

- Exclusion of bank officials (as advised in a stakeholder meeting) in this list (of politically influential and exposed persons) is a prominent example of the unfair, unjust, arbitrary and discriminatory nature of this Bill. 

- The Bill must respect the security cluster law enforcement agencies as listed in the National Intelligence Act, no 39 of 1994 and not seek to create parallelism. 

- The dissolution of the Counter Money Laundering Council as provided for in the current FIC Bill, will remove objectivity and centralise power in favour of the National Treasury and is thus is not supported by PPF. The body therefore calls on the Security Cluster of government to object to this. 

Hotly debated

The FIC Bill has been the subject of fierce debate since it landed on President Jacob Zuma’s desk last year. The PPF and Black Business Council were two of the most vocal opponents of the Bill, arguing that it’s unconstitutional for a number of reasons. 

In November last year, Zuma sent the Bill back to Parliament over concerns that the provision for warrantless searches could be in breach of the Constitution. 

READ: Heated public hearings into FIC Bill 

The reservations cited by the President resulted in the Bill being subjected a renewed round of public hearings on 25 January where a number of stakeholders were allowed to give renewed input. 

The PPF and BBC’s submissions to Parliament centred mainly on concerns that African people will fall victim to the term politically exposed people (PEPs) and that their constitutional right to freedom and dignity will be infringed upon.

Mzwanele Manyi, PPF president said during the deliberations that that he was of the view that the FIC bill, once signed into law, will lead to a crisis in the country and that he will call upon Zuma to not ratify the bill. He added that the Bill should be scrapped in its entirety. 

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