The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) in the Bank of Namibia last week confirmed it intends to introduce unexplained wealth orders in a bid to curb financial crime.
These Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO), explained Bank of Namibia (BoN) governor and chairperson of the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation Council Johannes !Gawaxab, will compel individuals brought before a court of law to prove their wealth was acquired through legal means.
However, while commentators welcomed the initiative by the FIC, they were also sceptical about its impact on significantly curtailing corruption, noting that: “Words need to be put into action”.
Critics also questioned similar initiatives previously undertaken, such as lifestyle audits as well as the Whistleblower Protection Act, which they criticised for being pointless without proper execution.
The ACC recently reiterated the need to expedite the implementation of the Whistleblowers Protection Act to protect those who report and provide evidence on cases of corruption. Moreover, the introduction of lifestyle audits has been touted since 2016 but this process seems to have hit a brick wall. “This is a good thing to happen, and it is an excellent initiative,” noted John Steytler, an economist and former economic advisor to President Hage Geingob.
However, Steytler said for these initiatives to work as intended, “We need to capacitate the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) because this is why it was established,” adding that the State’s corruption fighting entity constantly complains about being under-funded and under-staffed.
Steytler stressed that those indicted on corruption charges should be prosecuted and this should be done swiftly.
“Look at the Fishrot and other cases where it takes so long for justice to be served. This breaks down confidence in our judicial and other systems,” he said.
Steytler added that pointers can be taken from the private sector, which he said are leaps and bounds ahead in terms of promptly concluding corruption cases.
“We need to put more action to our words,” he stated.
Meanwhile, economic analyst Klaus Schade noted the United Kingdom introduced unexplained wealth orders in 2018 that covers mainly two categories of persons, namely politically exposed persons and persons suspected to be involved in crimes.
“UWOs place the burden of proof on the accused person, rather than on the State by requiring them to prove how they have paid for their assets. It has to be granted by a court. Introducing UWOs in Namibia can add another powerful tool to the fight against corruption and money laundering. Like with other existing tools, such as lifestyle audits, it requires strong institutions that investigate suspected cases of corruption, money laundering, etc., thoroughly and apply the available tools without hesitation,” said Schade.
The FIC last week reported that during the 2020/21 financial year, it received 1 585 suspicious transaction reports, and 177 suspicious activities were reported from accountable and reporting institutions, internally generated reports and members of the public.
This signifies an increase of 35% of reports, compared to the previous (2019/20) financial year.
The FIC noted that it disseminated a total of 435 intelligence disclosures to domestic and international stakeholders.
Analysed transactions were valued at N$13.8 billion, some of which are still under investigation by law enforcement agencies and other competent authorities.