PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has signed the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (Fica) Bill into law, the presidency said in a statement yesterday morning.

The presidency’s Dr Bongani Ngqulunga said the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Act, assented by the President, amends the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, 2001.

The 2001 Act and other related Acts aim to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Ngqulunga said Zuma was satisfied that the Act addressed the constitutional concerns he had raised about warrantless searches.

“These amendments to the Financial Intelligence Amendment Act further strengthen transparency and the integrity of the South African financial system in its objectives to combat financial crimes, which include tax evasion, money laundering and the financing of terrorism and illicit financial flows,” Ngqulunga said.

The amendments would also make it harder for people who are involved in illegitimate activities or tax evasion to hide behind legal entities like shell companies and trusts.

He said measures to strengthen anti-money laundering and the combating of terrorist financing regulatory framework in the Amendment Act included:
Requiring the identification of beneficial owners to prevent natural persons from misusing legal entities for nefarious purposes like evading tax.
Enhancing the customer due diligence requirements that will ensure that entities fully understand the nature and potential risk posed by their customers.
Providing for the adoption of a risk-based approach in the identification and assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing risks, and assist in making customer compliance easier.
Providing for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions relating to the freezing of assets relating to persons associated with terrorism.
Safeguarding information in line with the Protection of Personal Information.
Providing for inspection powers for regulatory compliance purposes in accordance with the Constitution.
Enhancing certain administrative and enforcement mechanisms.

The Act sends a strong message about Mzansi’s commitment to combating financial crime, protecting the integrity of our financial system and our tax base, and remaining part of the global financial system, Ngqulunga said.