Mauritius establishes the Financial Crime Commission [FCC]
In December 2023, the Mauritius government announced the establishment of a Financial Crime Commission [FCC], which is to become the,
- “Apex agency in Mauritius to DETECT, INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE financial crimes such as corruption offences, money laundering offences, fraud offences, the financing of drug dealing offences and any other ancillary offence connected thereto”.
The FCC is the new structure that will bring together three investigative institutions under one roof, including.
- The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) under the Prevention of Corruption Act,
- The Asset Recovery Investigation Division (ARID) of the Financial Intelligence Unit under the Asset Recovery Act and
- The Integrity Reporting Services Agency (IRSA) under the Good Governance and Integrity Reporting Act.
In addition, the FCC will henceforth be:-
- The depository of all declarations made under the Declaration of Assets Act”.
- “To provide for more accountability and oversight in respect of case investigation and case management by the Commission, opportunity is being taken to reintroduce the Operations Review Committee,
- A committee set up under the Prevention of Corruption Act but later removed”.
- Behind the bill's general object, the government’s entire strategic intention raises the eyebrows of informed observers. Since the 1990s, the country has been searching for the ideal structural formula to detect financial crimes.
- A Labour government created the first institution known as the Economic Crime Office (ECO), but it was dissolved in January 2002 by the MMM-MSM government.
- Subsequently, he set up a new institution, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), under the Prevention of Corruption Act to replace the ECO.
- However, all the hopes in the ICAC were frustrated due to its lack of independence, proverbial slowness, and very poor record.
- The ICAC gave the impression of dealing with small fry instead of tracking down the big sharks of fraud and corruption.
- The major corruption cases referred to him have remained unresolved for years. In certain cases, the ICAC has been disavowed by the courts, as in the case where a suspect (a state pharmacist) – prosecuted for alleged malpractice in the award of a medicine supply contract – was acquitted for lack of evidence.
- Given the current institutional dysfunctions whereby the institutions responsible for combating financial crimes operate in isolation and are sometimes at loggerheads with each other over their areas of expertise, a new structure is undoubtedly necessary.
- Like ICAC, ARID and IRSA have not produced positive results.
- Regarding investigation into unexplained wealth, ARID's record is zero, while external signs of wealth are visible in certain circles.
- From the outset, there appears to be a credibility problem for the FCC.
- Although SECTION 4 of the bill says that the FCC will not, in the exercise of its functions and powers, be under the direction of any person or authority, the conditions of its independence do not seem to be united.
- Indeed, Article 10 provides that the Director General of the FCC will be appointed by the Prime Minister on a contractual basis for five years after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.
- In practice, we know what consultation means. The PM informs the Leader of the Opposition of his choice. He can express his disagreement but he does not have a right of veto. As in many cases, a head of service appointed by the PM is only accountable to the head of government. He is not accountable to the tax-paying public or to Parliament.
- Ideally, the director general of the FCC should be appointed by consensus by the three personalities of the State (the President of the Republic, the PM and the leader of the Opposition) or by an independent body such as the Judicial and Legal Services Commission by drawing the rare bird from the ranks of the judiciary.
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