IN an effort to combat crimes which are committed across borders, countries utilize mutual legal assistance. Mutual legal assistance is a form of cooperation between countries with the primary aim of collecting and exchanging information. There are instances where authorities in one country may seek to gather evidence which is located in another country. The importance of this process is highlighted in Recommendation 37 of the Financial Action Task Force Forty Recommendations.
This recommendation requires countries to effectively and efficiently provide mutual legal assistance in relation to money laundering, predicate offences and terrorist financing investigations. It is incumbent upon a country to have adequate legal basis for providing the assistance. This can be bolstered by treaties, arrangements or other mechanisms to facilitate cooperation.
In order to facilitate this cooperation countries are to ensure that they do not place unreasonable restrictive conditions on the provision of mutual legal assistance, neither should they refuse to execute a request for mutual legal assistance on the basis of financial institutions and DNFBP secrecy and confidentiality, “except where the relevant information that is sought is held in circumstances where legal professional privilege or legal professional secrecy applies”.
It is incumbent upon countries when they are making mutual legal assistance requests to provide complete factual information. It is also important that countries ascertain the legal requirements, prior to sending a request to another country for assistance. This will facilitate the timely execution of the mutual legal assistance requests.
The central authority which has responsibility for mutual legal assistance should have adequate financial, human and technical resources. It is also important that the competent authority employs staff with the highest integrity and ensures that the staff maintain a high level of professionalism.
The legislation covering mutual legal assistance in Saint Lucia is the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, Cap. 3.03.
More information on the FATF Forty Recommendations can be found on the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) website at https://www.cfatf-gafic.org.
Additional articles and educational material can also be found on the Attorney General’s Chambers website at attorneygeneralchambers.com or our Facebook page.
Editor’s note: The preceding is Part 41 of a series by The Attorney General’s Chambers and the National Anti-Money Laundering Oversight Committee (NAMLOC) which aims to shed light on the 40 recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force.