Mauritius legislates to create new Financial Crimes Commission

The government of Mauritius has introduced the Financial Crimes Commission Act to provide for the establishment of a new Financial Crimes Commission, which will be the apex agency in Mauritius to detect, investigate and prosecute financial crimes.

The Act, which is intended to create a robust and harmonised framework to combat financial crime, was passed by the National Assembly on 19 December 2023 and obtained the Presidential assent on 21 December. It will enter into force when proclaimed by Parliament at a future date.

When Mauritius was removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of jurisdictions subject to increased monitoring in 2021, it advised Mauritius to strengthen its efforts to ensure that money laundering cases were dealt with as a priority and in a timely manner.

The Act is designed to address this recommendation in advance of the next FATF assessment in 2027.

Under the Financial Crimes Commission Act, the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Asset Recovery Act, the Good Governance & Integrity Reporting Act and Part II of the Financial Intelligence & Anti-Money Laundering Act will all be repealed and replaced by a new legal framework.

The new Financial Crimes Commission (FCC) will take over the functions and powers of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Asset Recovery Investigation Division (ARID) of the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Integrity Reporting Services Agency (IRSA). It will also be the depository for all declarations made under the Declaration of Assets Act.

The Financial Intelligence Unit will not be integrated and will continue to operate separately in gathering and disseminating financial intelligence and receiving suspicious transaction reports.

The FCC will be structured to include: an Investigation Division, comprising the Financial Crimes Investigation Unit and the Financing of Drug Dealing Investigation Unit; an Asset Recovery and Management Division, comprising the Asset Recovery Unit, the Declaration of Assets Unit and the Unexplained Wealth Unit; an Education and Preventive Division; and a Legal Division.

The Commission will be responsible, amongst other things, for:

  • Detecting and investigating any offence under the Act, including offences related to the financing of drug dealing.
  • Conducting investigations regarding asset recovery and for recovering and managing assets which are proceeds of offences under the Act.
  • Detecting and investigating offences under the Declaration of Assets Act.
  • Detecting and investigating unexplained wealth.
  • Preventing and educating the public against financial crimes.
  • Prosecuting any offence under the Act and any offence under the Declaration of Assets Act.

The FCC will have the power to request any financial institution to provide customer information, including details of financial transactions, subject to judicial check. It will also be empowered to use special investigative techniques – intrusive surveillance and equipment interception – to gather intelligence or evidence.

The FCC will be empowered to handle both civil and criminal aspects of asset seizure, freezing and confiscation and dealing with unexplained wealth.

Following the conclusion of an investigation and the receipt of the relevant report, the FCC is empowered to institute such criminal proceedings as it may consider appropriate for any offence under the Act or the Declaration of Assets Act.

The Act provides for new criminal offences in respect of bribery for procuring withdrawal of tenders, corruption in relation to sporting events, fraud and the financing of drug dealing. The new fraud offences include fraud by false representation, by failing to disclose information, making or supplying articles for use in fraud, by abuse of position, and electronic fraud.

To provide for more accountability and oversight in respect of case investigation and case management by the Commission, an Operations Review Committee will be reintroduced, in line with the requirements of the OECD.

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