Remarks by Ambassador Lynch at the opening of Guyana Civil Asset Recovery Workshop

Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
Opening of Guyana Civil  Asset Recovery Workshop
July 19, 2022

Good morning, it is a pleasure to join you this morning.  I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the Hon. Attorney General Nandlall, for co-hosting this multi-agency asset recovery workshop with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) team.

Mrs. Nicola Suter, Financial Crimes Legal Advisor with National Center for State Courts
Honorable Mr. Robeson H.R. Benn
Honorable Madame Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards
Honorable Madam Justice Roxane George
Commissioner Mr. Clifton Hickens
Esteemed colleagues of the Justice and Security sectors
Expert Faculty Members, Distinguished guests,

We also welcome expert speakers from across the Caribbean, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Ladies and gentlemen,

This workshop is an initiative under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) Anti-Crime Program, which Guyana has been a signatory since 2010. To today, we will forge and strengthen partnerships, share best practices, and strengthen our response to serious, transnational and financial crimes.

We are delighted to be co-hosting this event for law enforcement partners, representing the Financial Intelligence Unit, Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit, Criminal Investigation Department and Special Organized Crime Unit, and prosecutors representing the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and Attorney General’s Chambers.  We are also joined by the Guyana Revenue Authority and agencies tasked with managing Guyana’s petroleum reserves as they prepare for Guyana’s increased revenues from its burgeoning oil and gas industry.

Through this program, the United States aims to help strengthen the capacity of the justice sector to respond effectively to criminal activity and ensure citizen security.   The program takes a regional approach to tackle narcotics, trafficking, and other forms of serious organized crimes through asset recovery and robust anti-money laundering measures.

The aim of criminals, especially of complex, organized crime networks, is the pursuit of financial profit.  According to a 2017 report released by Global Financial Integrity, the global business of transnational crime is valued at an around $2 trillion USD annually.  These staggering figures highlight the scale of the economic cost of crime, but we know that the social cost is equally significant.

The social and economic cost of crime is magnified further in smaller countries like Guyana.  As some criminals launder the proceeds of their crimes, they find new and creative methods to do so.  Their efforts do not just enrich themselves, they hurt legitimate business owners and ordinary citizens.  In short, we know that when criminals enrich themselves, it isn’t a victimless crime and asset forfeiture helps bring some justice.

By depriving criminals of their ill-gotten gains and ensuring that in the long run ‘crime doesn’t pay’, we can disrupt their criminal activities.  To do so effectively, we must also adapt, deploy our resources carefully, and work together on investigations and prosecutions.

We can formulate the most effective response to financial crimes by sharing challenges and best practices, exchanging new techniques and ideas, and building partnerships and networks.

Guyana has a mélange of legislation that provides for asset recovery, but there is a need to build capacity on how to effectively implement and use these laws.  The purpose of this workshop is to do just that.  We come together to enhance our knowledge of the law and share regional and international best practices.  This will build expertise in conviction-based and non-conviction-based asset recovery in Guyana. We hope that participants will leave the workshop with a shared sense of purpose, a vested interest in asset recovery, and an understanding of how to use the tools available to successfully prosecute financial crimes.

There is a clear need for a robust response to prosecuting transnational criminal and terrorist offences.  This tough response will be a deterrent to persons committing serious offences, thereby offering greater security and stability for the region.  The United States Government’s mission is in full alignment with the Government of Guyana’s asset recovery measures as there is an urgent need to curb financial crimes and asset forfeiture is an important piece of that effort.  Forfeiture takes the profit out of crime.  It also serves as a deterrent to future crimes, allowing the Government to deprive wrongdoers of the tools of their trade.

I applaud the Government of Guyana and the Ministry of Legal Affairs specifically for their commitment to fighting money laundering and other international crimes.  We urge you all to continue to uphold inter-agency cooperation in investigation and prosecutions of financial and trans-national organized crimes.

The United States Government stands committed to helping Guyana build confidence to test legislation through cross-agency oversight and joint accountability as well as confidence to adjudicate asset recovery cases accurately, consistently and within a reasonable time.

This workshop is one component of a wider foreign assistance program which includes periodic training for the Special Organized Crime Unit and the Financial Intelligence Unit, and legislative review of financial crimes legislation.

We are grateful to all of you for your participation and I wish you a productive two days of the asset recovery workshop.

Thank you very much.