Gigaba may delay implementation of FICA bill, DA warns

Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance says Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba may delay the implementation of the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (FICA) Bill, which it describes as one of the most important legislative weapons in the fight against corruption in South Africa.

DA finance spokesman David Maynier said the bill provides for the ongoing monitoring of the business relationships, sources of wealth and sources of funds of "domestic prominent influential persons," and family members and close associates of "domestic prominent influential persons," in the country. 

President Jacob Zuma signed the FICA bill into law on Saturday morning.

The presidency’s Dr Bongani Ngqulunga said the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Act, assented to by the President, amends the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, 2001. 

The 2001 Act and other related Acts aim to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Ngqulunga said Zuma was satisfied that the Act addresses the constitutional concerns he had raised about warrantless searches.

"These amendments... further strengthen the transparency and integrity of the South African financial system in its objectives to combat financial crimes, which include tax evasion, money laundering and the financing of terrorism and illicit financial flows," Ngqulunga said.  

The amendments would also make it harder for people who are involved in illegitimate activities or tax evasion to hide behind legal entities like shell companies and trusts.

Maynier warned that Zuma and his most important "clients", the Guptas, are going to "feel the heat" as their business relationships, sources of wealth and sources of funds are subjected to ongoing monitoring by financial institutions in the country.

However‚ he said the battle was far from over and that there could still be significant delays in implementing the legislation because‚ despite being signed into law by Zuma‚ the legislation only actually commences on a date to be determined by the minister and published in the Government Gazette.

He said the Financial Intelligence Centre must, for example, still produce an official list of "domestic prominent influential persons" and of family members and known close associates.

"This will be a massive task because the list of 'domestic prominent influential persons' includes, for example, senior executives, as well as family members and close associates of senior executives, of all companies supplying goods and services above a threshold amount, which must be determined by the minister and published in the Government Gazette."

Maynier said that there were also doubts over whether the Financial Intelligence Centre, which only has a budget of R289 million for 2017/18, will have the resources to effectively implement the act.

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