COCI tables anti-money-laundering legislation concerns with Minister

PHILIPSBURG--The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) tabled its concerns on the proposed changes to the law relating to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) recommendations and, in particular, the articles of the law related to COCI’s functioning, during a meeting with Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever and his legal advisers on August 19.
“It is so evident that whilst this law impacts the Chamber of Commerce and Industry – namely, setting obligations and authorities – COCI neither received the draft proposed law nor was COCI consulted with,” COCI Board President Benjamin Ortega explained during the meeting.
“The proposed amendments were executed without any clear knowledge of COCI, its functioning and its obligations to maintain the registry of businesses, as well as its tasks to support and propel business development.”
CFATF is an organisation of states and territories of the Caribbean basin which have agreed to implement common countermeasures against money-laundering and terrorism-financing.
COCI informed the minister and his team that it is conducting a legal review of the proposed changes. From the initial review the Chamber conducted and through contact with the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce, COCI said that certain articles, such as Article 25.1c, were noticeably different from the draft law changes executed in Curaçao.
COCI has, through the media and deliberations in Parliament, learned of proposed changes to Book 2 of the Civil Code impacting the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, COCI said that in its communication to government two years ago it had broached the topic of compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) standards and its vision of how the Chamber could aid.
COCI met with Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) Stuart Johnson recently and agreements were made to propose amendments to the various ordinances governing COCI and on the intention to include the amendments of Article 25 of Book 2 of the Civil Code. Such changes were already adopted in Curaçao and have been communicated through the relationship between the St. Maarten and Curaçao Chambers, Ortega said.
The minister and his team explained in detail the trajectory of the law amendments and the process it had taken, dating from 2014, to come to the proposed draft legislation. The minister’s legal adviser said there was a joint task force of the former Netherlands Antilles that had worked on many of the law amendments and it was within this framework that changes had been made and further adapted for the individual islands.
COCI spoke of the importance of ensuring that St. Maarten at all times was in compliance with regulations combating money-laundering and terrorism-financing and the importance and impact this would have on the business community. It also expressed concerns that in a quest to comply with international standards, the wrong mechanisms could be chosen, and outlined the impact this would have on St. Maarten’s economy, development and sustainability.
“At no time should legislation be adopted which puts at risk what it is supposed to enhance,” Ortega said.
He urged Parliament and government to carefully deliberate on the proposed amendments and consider at all times the impact any such amendment would have on St. Maarten’s social, economic and sustainable development.
Chamber representatives who attended the meeting and the minister and his legal advisers “were happy” to get together to share their input in finding the best solution to solve some of the country’s challenges through this proposed draft law, it was stated in the release.
Agreements have been made that legal advisers of both the minister and the Chamber will address further amendments after a full review and recommendations.
The meeting was held at Ortega’s invitation. COCI’s executive board and its director represented the chamber at the meeting, while De Weever attended with his team of legal advisers.
The Daily Herald

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