CFATF conferenceCountries of the Commonwealth have been urged to work collaboratively to counter violent extremism, money laundering and terrorism, and to build longstanding relationships with existing regimes.Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland addressing delegates at the CFATF conference being held in GuyanaCommonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland told delegates at the opening of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Judges and Prosecutors’ Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) workshop, “we can either swim together or drown separately”.Scotland said it has been a constant complaint from almost all Commonwealth countries, particularly small States that there was a lack of qualified and resourceful parliamentary draftsmen, who have the ability to create modern-day legislation to deal with the issues of money laundering, among others.“We all have the same problem. So, rather than working separately, we can work together. We have been saying we have two choices. We can either swim together or drown separately. And I am for swimming and since I don’t swim very well, I need some people to support me,” she asserted.Members of the diplomatic corps at the opening of the conference on ThursdayThe Secretary General said the Commonwealth legal luminaries have a duty to be vigilant guardians, protecting the safety and well-being of all their people. They must ensure that the Commonwealth countries have the capacity to safeguard institutions in order to prevent them from being exploited by criminal and terrorist purposes.According to her, the sources of funding for these activities are diverse and flow with “constantly shifting channels of distribution”. The SG pointed out that when one revenue stream was closed, another was opened. “And to stem the supply that sustains terrorism and violent extremism, we have to ensure that we have the best and the most up-to-date legal and criminal justice tools available.”In delivering the feature address, President David Granger pointed out that given its geographic location, the Caribbean has become a haven for financial pirates, privateers, money launderers and tax evaders. He noted that present-day criminal cartels possessed the means to corrupt public officials too.According to him, present-day Information Communication Technologies can facilitate the transfer of financial assets across borders at the speed of light. Illicit transactions can contaminate “the voluminous transactions which take place in our countries’ financial systems.”Robust legislationAs such, the Head of State stressed the importance of safeguarding the criminal justice system of States from the subversion of organised crime. The President underscored the need for robust legislation and sturdy institutions, which he said could be used as weapons that could protect States from these activities.He also made reference to Guyana’s efforts in countering money laundering and other financial crimes. President Granger also reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to establishing a robust criminal justice system in its campaign to combat financial crimes, which have seen massive growth over the years.In his remarks, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams pointed out that the Region’s overall rate of conviction and confiscation of criminal proceeds has been moderate, despite many countries implementing legislative measures to criminalise money laundering and terrorist financing.Minister Williams proposed that countries “also obtain convictions and pursue seizing and confiscating the proceeds and instrumentalities of crime for the benefit of States and victims”. He said this would in a large way help the global AML/CFT efforts to be effective and strategic.The two-day workshop, which is being hosted in Guyana, will address issues in relation to investigative orders, the prosecution and management of money laundering cases, international cooperation, confiscation and restraint orders, conviction-based confiscation and terrorism/terrorist financing.The workshop will also serve as an opportunity for Judges and Prosecutors to deepen their understanding through the exchange of ideas on the regional and global dimensions of money laundering, terrorism financing, countering violent extremism and the recovery of the proceeds of corruption.