Egypt’s parliament to discuss two bills on money laundering and pilgrimage visas this week

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 21 May 2022

Egypt's House of Representatives – the lower house of parliament – will reconvene this week to hold plenary sessions on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Egypt s parliament
File Photo: Egypt s parliament during a session. Al-Ahram


According to the schedule of debate, the House will devote Sunday's session to discussing government-drafted legislative amendments to the 20-year-old anti-money laundering law (Law 80/2002) and a new bill aimed at regulating Haj (pilgrimage) visas.

The amendments to the anti-money laundering law, which was approved by the cabinet in a meeting on 20 April, were referred to the House early this month.

Upon the request of House speaker Hanafy El-Gebaly, the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee and Economic Affairs Committee held three hearing sessions on the amended law on 9, 10 and 15 May, at the end of which it was approved by members.

According to a report prepared by the two committees, the new amendments are in line with international conventions and agreements which oblige Egypt to fight all forms of terrorism and combat its sources of financing.

"Egypt is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which recommended in June 2021 that Egypt amend its anti-money laundering law (Law 80/2002) to help tighten the grip on terrorism crimes and dry up their sources of funding," said the report.

To achieve this objective, the report said the new amendments aim to set up an independent anti-money laundering unit affiliated with the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE).

The unit, which will also help fight funding of terrorism, will be led by a council of trustees to be headed by a judicial official with at least 15 years of experience in cassation and appeal courts.

Members of the council of trustees will include the prosecutor-general, the CBE’s deputy governor, deputy chairperson of the General Financial Supervisory Authority, head of the cabinet’s Council of Advisers, a representative from the Egyptian Federation of Banks, an economic expert, and the unit’s executive director.

The bill also states that all financial institutions as well as leaders of non-financial professions and activities shall be obliged to implement all the instructions and orders that will be issued by the anti-money laundering unit in line with international conventions and agreements in this respect. Violators will be obliged to pay a fine ranging from EGP 100,000-300,000.

The parliamentary report concluded that the new amendments will help improve Egypt's investment appeal, enhance the country's international political and economic prestige and open the door for Egyptian authorities to take advantage of the experience of developed countries in fighting terrorism and combating its sources of financing.

The House is also scheduled Sunday to discuss a new bill aiming to regulate Haj (pilgrimage) travel by setting up the Unified Egyptian Portal for Online Haj Visas.

The 25-article bill – which was approved by the House’s Tourism and Civil Aviation Committee on 9 March – states that an online portal will be made available for Egyptian citizens seeking to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform their pilgrimage.

"A law establishing a portal for online Umra (lesser pilgrimage) visas (Law 72/2021) was passed by the House last year, and now it is time for another law setting up a portal for online Haj visas to be discussed and passed," said a committee report.

“All the information related to Egyptian pilgrims will be registered on this unified Egyptian pilgrimage portal ahead of their travel,” said the bill, adding that “each pilgrim will have a code number to be stamped on their passport.” "This is important to prevent Egyptian pilgrims from falling a prey to swindlers and fraudulent activities," said the bill's report.

The bill also states that at the start of every pilgrimage season, an official mission will be formed to follow and evaluate the performance of authorities in charge of organising pilgrimages and will then send their recommendations to the president.

The bill states that violators will be sentenced to one year in prison and pay a fine ranging from EGP 1-5 million.

On Monday, Minister of Trade and Industry Nevine Gamea is scheduled to come to the House to answer 43 questions on the ministry's industrial policies, the problems of industrial zones and modernising industrial products.

On Tuesday, Minister of Local Development Mahmoud Shaarawi is also expected to come to the House to answer as many as 182 questions on road pavement problems, recycling of street garbage and refuse dumps, construction codes, and the status of public service projects in Egypt's 27 governorates.

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