President Jacob Zuma has signed the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (FICA) bill into law‚ the Presidency announced on Saturday‚ adding that the amended act will send a strong message about South Africa’s commitment to combating financial crime.
The Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Act amends the Financial Intelligence Centre Act‚ 2001 which‚ along with other related acts‚ are aimed at combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
“The President is now satisfied that the Act addresses the constitutional concerns he had raised about warrantless searches‚” the Presidency said in a statement.
“These amendments to the Financial Intelligence Amendment Act further strengthen the transparency and integrity of the South African financial system in its objectives to combat financial crimes‚ which include tax evasion‚ money laundering and the financing of terrorism and illicit financial flows. The amendments also make it harder for persons who are involved in illegitimate activities or tax evasion to hide behind legal entities like shell companies and trusts‚” the statement read.
It said measures to strengthen anti-money laundering and the combating of terrorist financing regulatory framework in the Amendment Act included:
– requiring the identification of beneficial owners to prevent natural persons from misusing legal entities for nefarious purposes like evading tax;
– enhancing the customer due diligence requirements that will ensure that entities fully understand the nature and potential risk posed by their customers;
– providing for the adoption of a risk based approach in the identification and assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing risks‚ and assist in making customer compliance easier;
– providing for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions relating to the freezing of assets relating to persons associated with terrorism;
– safeguarding information in line with the Protection of Personal Information;
– providing for inspection powers for regulatory compliance purposes in accordance with the Constitution; and
– enhancing certain administrative and enforcement mechanisms.
“The Amendment Act sends a strong message about South Africa’s commitment to combating financial crime‚ protecting the integrity of our financial system and our tax base‚ and remaining part of the global financial system. They further demonstrate South Africa’s membership commitments to the Financial Action Task Force and United Nations‚” said Presidency spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga.
The Banking Association of SA (BASA) said it was relieved that Zuma had finally signed the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (FICA) bill into law.
BASA MD Cas Coovadia said the association had been urging the president to sign the Bill for a number of months and that it was a pity that a stage had been reached where the intergovernmental body on money laundering‚ the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had had to warn the country it would be delinquent if it did not sign by June.
“The signing of the Bill ensures banks in SA remain at the cutting edge of global best practice and we are able to identify and deal with money laundering‚ terrorism financing and other such activities.
“The signing also enables a risk-based approach to combating these activities‚ so that bank clients who are less susceptible to such activities will be subject to lighter touch regulation and those significantly susceptible to such activities will be subject to stronger oversight‚” Coovadia said.