Parliament has approved amendment of bills that will enable the country to rectify legal gaps in counterterrorism and financial crimes as sighted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) advisory commission in April 2021. terrorism
The FATF is a global anti-financial crimes network with 39 region-based members plus nine associate members. Rwanda is one of them clustered in the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) since 2014.
The four bills include; a law on counter terrorism; prevention and punishment of money laundering, financing of terrorism and financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; governing mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and governing recovery of offence-related assets.
Committee which presented the articles for amendment said that the FATF team had recommended to the government to make some changes to suit the required standards of the network.
“The earlier bill had some written errors which we revised thus coming up with six articles but the amendments are intended to respond to FATF recommendations to have laws which cover the whole scoop of the treaties we signed,” said MP Omar Munyaneza, the chairperson of the economic and budget committee.
The amendments, for example, saw the earlier (N° 42/2014 of January 2015) bill governing recovery of offence-related assets which had five get an additional 6th article.
Most amendments in this bill were specifically done on article 1, 2, and 3.
For instance article 1, lists a wide range of crimes in which assets accumulated can be recovered if derived from offences such as corruption; terrorism; illicit trafficking of narcotics and weapons; trafficking in persons, embezzlement; kidnapping; money laundry; hijacking of vessels, aircrafts and vehicles and exploitation of the prostitution of others; among others.
However, a debate was raised on translation of article 1 which puts exploitation of the prostitution of others as one of crimes in which recoverable assets can be derived from.
MP Musa Fazil Harerimana said that the word prostitution was translated as sex offers which change the meaning of the article; however the committee said that the focus was on highlighting the act of luring or forcing others into sex objects for personal benefits as a criminal offense.
The bill also stipulated a request for the sharing of confiscated assets which can be done through diplomatic channels through the Minister of Justice via the Ministry in charge of foreign affairs.
On counter terrorism, the amended bill came out with eight articles instead of seven initial ones, and specifically defining areas of terrorism.
For example, public places such as roads, airspace, waterway or other locations that are accessible or open to members of the public; terrorist acts as deliberate acts which is a violation of the criminal Laws and which may endanger the life, electronic communication and explosive devices classified as objects of terror.
The bill also clarifies on dealing with funds or other assets of a designated person as one who, knowingly or is likely to know, deals with the funds or other assets or having part or full involvement.
The bill also recommended establishment of a National Counter-Terrorism Committee as provided by the Prime Minister’s Order and a required publication of the list of terrorists and terrorism financiers.
The bills come at a time when Rwanda is faced with a new era of dealing with financial crimes which Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) says that this has different faces but most of the crimes are currently committed on the internet.
The most recent of these crimes is a case where a foreign investor was conned over Rwf 1 Billion in a scam involving three Rwandans, including a priest who allegedly used the internet and electronic devices to pull off the crime. However residents and police collaboration managed to recover Rwf 771 Million later.
RIB Spokesman, Dr. Thierry B. Murangira told local media that the manner of committing financial crimes in Rwanda has shifted from physical actions to smart tech based crimes which he referred to as white collar crimes.
“These are emerging crimes in Rwanda but most of them have been propelled by the internet to con someone and using electronic devices like smartphones and computers without the authority or consent of the user, which is criminal in itself,” Murangira said.
Dr. Murangira told local media that there is still a challenge of ignorance on cybercrimes especially on social media (YouTube) and radio stations but RIB is now focusing on educating owners to publish content that doesn’t fall under internet crimes of which they may not be aware of.