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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary Committee of National Assembly on Finance Monday cleared the Finance Action Task Force-related Anti-Money Laundering Second Amendment Bill, 2020, with majority votes amid opposition protest over rejection of all amendments to the law.

A meeting of the committee presided over by Faiz Ullah Kamoka completed the entire process of the approval in a very brief time by holding the finance committee meeting half an hour ahead of the scheduled time of 11:00.

The AML law was approved law with majority votes of three as six opposition and nine treasury members could turn up on Monday.

As the proceedings of the committee started, Naveed Qamar of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) mentioned the concerns of the opposition members in the committee about making the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) part of the money laundering law.

He said that approval of the law in the committee's last sitting was delayed till Monday for detailed discussion on the NAB role.

He said that "we have reservations about many issues but including NAB in the money laundering on top of them because it has been inappropriate." Some major recommendations of the opposition were that there should be no role of the NAB in the AML law as other law enforcement agencies had already been given adequate role.

Director General Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) Lubna Farooq, while defending the role of the NAB in the AML law, however, argued that the NAB had been working with many other agencies, and excluding the NAB at this point would not be possible.

She said that the NAB could have been excluded, if it did not exist as an institution.

Aisha Ghaus Pasha said that this law would be disastrous as it would lead to harassment, and consequently there would be grave consequences for businesses.

We have also requested the government to provide applicable AML laws in other regional countries for comparison but the government did not provide the laws, she said, adding that the government appears to have no regard for the parliament, given the way, it was pushing approval of law whose affects would be serious on investment in the country

Hina Rabbani Khar described the law as "draconian" and said it would create enormous problems for the economy as well as for the lives of the people.

Nafisa Shah said we were expecting discussion on the law in detail in Monday sitting as even treasury members had concern on some articles of the proposed law.

Qaiser Ahmed Shaikh stated that those were Finance Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations, which the government was trying to get approved through the AML bill, and added that the law should not be approved in haste, and business community should be taken on board owing to its impact on businesses.

In the proposed second amendments AML law penalty on money laundering on individual has been increased from Rs5 million to Rs25 million, and for institution and company to Rs100 million.

The law also envisages a National Executive Committee (NEC) for implementation on the recommendations.

Financial institutes would be required to provide information for suspicious transactions, and would be required to maintain five-year record of financial transactions.

The NEC would suggest required action plan for implementation of FATF conditions.

An authority would also be established that would take action against those non cooperative against money laundering.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020