Work with us, don’t fight us – Lawyer says on anti-money laundering efforts
Guyana is attempting to strengthen anti-corruptions measures, countering challenges such as money laundering. Amid those efforts, the Guyana Bar Association is urging regulatory and oversight bodies to work more amicably with lawyers.
This was the position of Teni Housty, the Vice President of the Bar Association, who spoke at the opening session of an anti-corruption training workshop on Tuesday.
What prompted Housty’s position were concerns raised about Attorney/ Client privileges and how that affects anti-money laundering (AML) and wider, anti-corruption efforts.
This privilege, essentially, refers to a legal privilege that works to keep confidential communications between an attorney and their client private.
“From Canada all the way down to Guyana, we are very much aware of this challenge and the courts around the Commonwealth Caribbean have defended and preserved the attorney/ client privilege above AML requirements,” Housty related.
Further, he provided examples of how the Courts in other jurisdictions found that laws which invaded this attorney/ client privilege were unconstitutional. He explained, that in the legal profession, it is the client’s privilege to determine what information should be disclosed or not.
As such, he said if a legal challenge is mounted, attorneys are more likely to emerge successful- preserving that “sacrosanct” privilege of their clients.
And for this reason, he urged the authorities to work with lawyers in finding better solutions, stating: “The better way to do it is to negotiate the balance.”
Liza Hanoman, the Legal Compliance Officer at Guyana’s Integrity Commission, was among those who pointed out that AML provisions are increasingly causing lawyers and other gatekeepers such as accountants to disclose some information.
“While you may have the authority to deal with your client.. You as the lawyer now have to say who your clients are, disclose their identities. I think that goes against the whole attorney/ client privilege,” Hanoman related.