The emergence of various electronic payment platforms is fostering money laundering and terrorism financing regime in Ghana, the Financial Intelligence Centre has observed.

According to the centre, much as the country was moving towards a cashless economy to experience its positive benefits, the move was also encouraging other crimes.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Intelligence Centre, Mr Samuel Thompson Essel, in a speech read on his behalf, made this known at the opening of a two-day training on anti-money laundering, organised by E-Crime Bureau, a private sub-regional cyber security and cyber forensics firm in Accra.

About 50 representatives from some financial institutions participated in the workshop.

Electronic payment 

Since the introduction of Bank of Ghana’s policy on cash-lite banking, new payment systems including, online banking among other electronic transactions have emerged in the financial sector.

The use of virtual markets and virtual currency, according Mr Essel “is posing a serious risk. International records have shown that people are funding insurgencies from Ghana. The new payment system is a looming money laundering risk.”

He mentioned the use of Bitcoin and Kitiwa as some of the most used mediums for money laundering.

Bitcoin and Kitiwa use peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks managing transactions. It is an open source; its design is public, nobody owns or controls and everyone can take part.

Mr Essel, therefore, advised financial institutions in the country to be extra vigilant in their operations and also collaborate through the sharing of ideas to fight the canker.

“Financial Institutions must be diligent, enhance their Know Your Customer (KYM) systems and Customer Due Diligence Measures (CDDM). They must pay critical attention to the types of products their customers sign onto, the jurisdiction for the transaction whether it is high risk jurisdiction or not,” he said.

Combating 

Ghana, he said, would soon publish its maiden national risk assessment report, a framework designed to prevent money laundering and combat terrorist financing.

The analysis, which began in September 2014, is in line with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which recommends that countries identify, assess, and understand money laundering and combat terrorist financing risks within their jurisdiction and then take action and apply resources to mitigate such risks.

Additionally, he said, Ghana would subject itself to the second phase of the mutual evaluation against money laundering by the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), the ECOWAS regional body responsible for the development of the anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regime.

“Ghana will be the first West African Country to publish its national risk assessment and also undergo the second phase of the mutual evaluation against money laundering. This shows our preparedness to fight the crime.”

Investigations 

The Founder of E-Crime Bureau, Mr Albert Antwi-Boasiako, told the participants that although the introduction of the mobile money system was intended to enhance financial inclusion and to consolidate national cash-lite agenda, analysts had predicted that the system could be abused if not well regulated.

Electronic payment, he said, was serving as a convenient medium for the crime because it encouraged anonymity and less face-to-face interaction between actors.

He said a number of investigations carried out by his company had established that employees of financial institutions sometimes acted as the insiders in such crimes.

He, therefore, urged the managements of financial institutions to put in place measures that would make it difficult for their employees to aid the criminals.