Gambia: The Threat of Money Laundering
Year after year, transnational organized crimes continue to threaten international peace and security. Money laundering (ML) and financing of terrorism (FT) are significant manifestations of this threat.
Money laundering is of course a derivative crime, stemming from a predicate offence; the financing of terrorism is rather a ‘reversed’ form of money laundering since it may involve both legitimate and illegitimate funds. Well-documented evidence exists which demonstrates that both money laundering and terrorist financing are highly detrimental to peace and security, and in fact undermine the overall stability and development of society. Concerted, coordinated efforts to eradicate these phenomena are becoming increasingly important globally. Technological advancement and the globalization of communication, together with world economic interdependence, have changed the social and political landscape of the planet. Organized criminals are at the forefront of these changes and take advantage of the powerful instruments of technology and globalization to perpetrate their unwholesome activities with absolute impunity. While criminals respect no territorial boundaries, law enforcement must act within the confines of the law in order to counter these criminal activities. Because of the difficulties in responding rapidly to the threat of transnational organised crime, even in the most advanced countries, law enforcement always seems to be a step behind the complex modus operandi of criminals. Therefore, no country can effectively tackle the menace of transnational organized crime by itself. At the outset, it is clear that criminals explore and exploit the socio-economic conditions of societies, taking particular advantage of the weak links in regulation and enforcement. Money laundering and financing of terrorism are not new phenomena in West Africa. Typologies had identified a good number of ML cases in the region while cases of FT are now beginning to be identified in several countries. This is the reason why states in this region have a duty to act together with other concerned nations and international bodies to combat these threats. This has to be done not only as part of protecting the world economies against criminal infiltration, but also to enhance the rule of law, deepen regional integration and maintain regional peace and security. Our countries are under serious threat of social dislocation and we have to act now. West Africa is one of the poorest and most neglected regions of the world. It is now faced with a huge challenge, due to its vulnerability to transnational organized crime and because of its limited capacity to respond effectively to this challenge. The continued regular outbreak of conflict and civil unrest are holding the region hostage to outside influence, making the realization of sustainable economic development objectives very difficult in those countries where conflict occurs. This renders the overall regional integration programme all but unattainable. Given this scenario, it becomes easy for criminals to exploit a crisis to launder the proceeds of crime and provide avenues for the financing of terrorism – as evidenced in the ongoing proliferation of small arms in parts of the region. These are most often obtained from illegal sources and are used to perpetrate and perpetuate conflicts in the region, thus contributing to additional ML predicate offences.
Money laundering and the financing of terrorism severely undermine sustainable development by eroding social and human capital, threatening social and political stability, causing an artificial rise in the cost of business, and driving away investment. This undercuts the ability of the states to initiate or accelerate development. The proceeds of crime fuel corruption, which in turn facilitates the commission of other crimes and undermines the rule of law. The result of inadequate rule of law is a sense of general insecurity, which renders a state incapable of attracting enough foreign direct investment.