What Youth need to know about Understanding the RNP ‘Financial Investigation Unit’
In an interview, ACP Joseph Costa Habyara, the director of FIU spoke toBosco R. Asiimwe on unit’s four-year journey and future plans.
QN: Briefly tell us what FIU is all about
ACP HABYARA: The FIU known as Financial Investigation Unit or Financial Intelligence Unit, depending on states, is a central or national reporting centre responsible for collecting, analyzing and disseminating, to whom it may concern, and investigating in a view of combating money laundering and financing terrorism. It is a Rwanda National Police unit that has its headquarters in the National Bank of Rwanda.
QN: Why did Rwanda or Rwanda National Police wait until 2011 to have this central agency in place?
ACP HABYARA: There was a process to follow to have the unit up and running. First, we needed a law putting in place this reporting agency, defining its duties and responsibilities. Between 2004 and 2005, there was an assessment done by the World Bank on the threat related to money laundering and financing terrorism in Rwanda and recommended having a law in place on these two issues – thus the law number 047/2008 of 9/9/2008 on prevention and penalizing the crime of money laundering and financing terrorism was enacted.
Article 20 of the cited law stipulates that the FIU will be put in place by a Presidential order. Thus, the Presidential Order number 27/01 of 30/5/2011 was enacted leading to the formation of FIU. It has its own Advisory Board chaired by the Governor of National Bank of Rwanda, deputized by the Prosecutor General.
On the board also include the Commissioner General of Rwanda Revenue Authority, Deputy Ombudsman in charge of fighting corruption, Director General of External Services in NISS, DG in the Ministry of Finance in charge of Financial Sector Development, Commissioner for Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Director of FIU, who is also the secretary of the board.
QN: Four years down the road, what are FIU’s achievements?
ACP HABYARA: We requested Managers of 16 Commercial banks and micro-finance banks to appoint money laundering reporting officers; we designed an STR (Suspicious Transaction Report) format that helps financial institutions to report online suspicious transactions to FIU; we played a role in establishing a fraud forum and a compliance forum where we meet quarterly or when deemed necessary.
The forums call all stakeholders (telecoms, banks, capital markets, Police, forex bureaus, visa card ….) to jointly review and take measures in fighting fraud and comply with internal rules and regulations against money laundering.
Reporting entities (banks, forex bureaus, insurance and money remittance companies, real estate agencies, dealers in precious metals, Casinos, NGOs, travel agencies and auditors) are by law required to comply and report suspicious transactions to FIU.
We have also conducted various trainings and attended regional and international workshops in India, South Korea, Kenya, Egypt, Burundi and Tanzania where ideas are exchanged on how better to fight money laundering and terrorism financing.
In 2012, Rwanda applied to be an observer member in the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), this status was granted the same year.Rwanda also applied to be a full member in 2014 during a meeting held in Luanda, Angola which was approved and currently, there are ongoing legal formalities to be fully admitted as an 18th member state.
As preventive measures, we also formulated directives on record-keeping, identification of customers and suspicious transactions reporting – which were approved by the FIU advisory board meeting of December 2, 2015. The cited directives indicate modalities of reporting suspicious transactions, how to identify customers, how to conduct customer due diligence and how to keep records. On cash couriers, we are still devising ways of harmonizing it in line with other countries.
QN: Like you mentioned, the sole role of FIU is to combat money laundering and financing terrorism. Have you encountered such cases and if yes, how have you dealt with them?
ACP HABYARA: During FIU operations, we froze and stopped suspicious bank transactions equivalent to US210, 000 dollars in 2012, US160, 000 dollars in 2014 and 22 bank accounts were frozen in 2015. But after thorough investigations, we found no connection or evidence related to money laundering or terrorism financing.
When we freeze a transaction, we have 48 hours to decide, either we defreeze or alternatively we submit the case to the prosecution for further actions.
QN: Any challenges so far?
ACP HABYARA: Financial crimes, like most other crimes, are changing forms because of technological development, thus this brings challenges in terms of adequate skills in investigations and detection. But we are embarking on adequate training, applying modern software and technology in analysis, investigation and detection. We have an active advisory board and we hope to realize and achieve more.
QN: Any message to the business community, financial institutions and the public in general?
ACP HABYARA: The business community is advised to use financial channels in their daily businesses for safety and transparency. We urge financial institutions to follow the law and directives which is part of their responsibilities to help fight such crimes.