Parliament approves two bills on money laundering and pilgrimage visas

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 22 May 2022

Egypt's House of Representatives – the lower house of parliament – gave preliminary approval Sunday to two bills on money laundering and pilgrimage visas, with final approval postponed to an upcoming session.

File Photo: A general view of the Egyptian parliament during a working session (AP)


In the first part of the debate on Sunday morning, MPs approved government-drafted legislative amendments to the 20-year-old anti-money laundering law (Law 80/2002).

Chairperson of the House's Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee Ibrahim El-Heneidy explained that 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 Heneidy.

To achieve this objective, Heneidy 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.

Heneidy 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 debate saw MP Abdel-Moneim Imam, a member of the opposition Egyptian Social Democratic Party, objecting to the bill, arguing that the amendments are not enough to eliminate the phenomenon of mestrayaheen (swindlers) who collect money from citizens without legal guarantees or the phenomenon of laundering money through the internet and online financial operations.

"Over the last two weeks only, a number of swindlers were able to collect millions of pounds from citizens and flee with their money," said Imam.

Atef El-Meghawry, an MP affiliated with the leftist Tagammu party, also objected to the amended law, referring to the statement delivered last week by Gamal, the younger son of late president Hosni Mubarak.

"In an English language statement addressed to Europeans – rather than to the Egyptians – Gamal Mubarak claimed that he and his family were acquitted of the charge of money laundering activities and plundering national riches," said El-Meghawry.

In the second part of the debate, MPs gave an initial approval of a new draft law aimed at regulating Hajj (pilgrimage) visas.

Nora Ali, the chairwoman of the House's Tourism and Civil Aviation Committee, said the new bill aims to regulate Hajj travel by setting up the Unified Egyptian Portal for Online Hajj Visas.

The 25-article bill – which was approved by the House’s Tourism and Civil Aviation Committee on 9 May – 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 Hajj visas to be discussed and passed," said Ali.

“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.”

The bill aims to help Egyptian pilgrims avoid scams or other fraudulent activitites, according to Ali.

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.

Speaker of Parliament Hanafy El-Gebaly said the articles of the new bill will be discussed in tomorrow's Monday session.

"As Minister of Trade and Industry Nevine Gamae apologized for not attending tomorrow's session to answer questions on industrial policies, we will dedicate the debate on Monday to discussing the articles of the new bill on pilgrimage visas," said El-Hanafy.

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