Seychelles
Assessment of the Supervision and Regulation of the Financial Sector—Review of Financial Sector Regulation and Supervision

This paper reviews of Sector Regulation and Supervision for Seychelles. Regulation and supervision of the banking sector and foreign exchange bureaus in Seychelles is carried out by the Bank Supervision Division of the Central Bank. Supervision of the credit union and the insurance companies is less formal, and carried out within the Ministry of Finance. Supervision of the housing finance company is shared by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Land Use and Habitat. The development bank has no designated supervisor, but its Board includes representatives from several key ministries.

Abstract

This paper reviews of Sector Regulation and Supervision for Seychelles. Regulation and supervision of the banking sector and foreign exchange bureaus in Seychelles is carried out by the Bank Supervision Division of the Central Bank. Supervision of the credit union and the insurance companies is less formal, and carried out within the Ministry of Finance. Supervision of the housing finance company is shared by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Land Use and Habitat. The development bank has no designated supervisor, but its Board includes representatives from several key ministries.

I. Overview of the Financial Sector

Seychelles is a small island economy, located in the Indian Ocean, with a population of 81,000 inhabitants and GDP (2001) estimated at US$570 million. The main economic activities are tourism, fishing, manufacturing, and agriculture. In the two decades to 1998, Seychelles achieved one of the highest standards of living in Africa, with an eight-fold increase in GDP per capita during that period. Beginning in 1999, growing macroeconomic imbalances made the economy less efficient and less competitive. Real GDP has declined significantly during the past three years.

Prominent among the policies of the government are a fixed exchange rate, foreign exchange restrictions and a foreign exchange allocation system, price controls, the monopoly of the Seychelles Marketing Board over the import and sale of key consumer goods, and large capital projects such as the East Coast Land Reclamation Program and subsidized public housing. Large external current account and fiscal deficits have been financed by substantial accumulation of both external debt in foreign currency and domestic government debt in local currency (including arrears), together equivalent to more than 200 percent of GDP at end 2001.

Operations of the financial system and its regulation in Seychelles must be seen in the macroeconomic context described above. In practice, the Central Bank works closely with the Ministry of Finance and with the Ministry of Planning (in charge of oversight of exchange controls) to see that the fiscal deficit is financed. At the same time, commercial bank activity consists mainly of intermediating government deposits and the purchase of government securities. The bulk of the total assets of the banking system were held in government securities or loans to the public sector at end-2001, with only 17 percent of assets in loans to the private sector.

A relaxation (October 2001) in the required local assets ratio (proportion of bank deposits that must be held in government securities) from 70 percent to 50 percent has had little practical benefit because banks were already holding well over 70 percent of their assets in these securities, and banks find it difficult to find new lending opportunities, whether in the commercial or private sector. Some available funds are finding their way into mortgages where the banks’ lending criteria can be met. However, most borrowers enjoy an interest subsidy on their borrowings from the SHDC. For mortgage lending under a new Housing Loan Scheme, the Central Bank has directed that the first SR 150,000 must be lent at an interest rate no higher than 2 percentage points over the administered rate on savings deposits, currently at 3 percent, with 15-year term. For loans in excess of SR 150,000, the interest rate is freely negotiable.

In summary, the financial system in Seychelles is characterized by: (1) very limited bank lending to the private sector compared with other countries at a similar level of development; (2) the important role played by state-owned nonbank financial institutions; (3) excess liquidity in the banking system and limited demand for credit, in part caused by acute shortage of foreign exchange and the decline in real GDP by more than 15 percent during 1999-2001; (4) banking management and banking supervision preoccupation with the foreign exchange problem, the extensive foreign exchange regulations, and the overall economic situation, rather than with the core banking business; (5) a lack of domestic private sector participation in the capital of financial institutions; (6) the absence of a level playing field between public and private institutions; and, despite the above, (7) a high level of bank profitability related to the margin between administered deposit and lending rates.

The domestic onshore financial sector in Seychelles comprises six commercial banks, a specialized development bank, a housing finance company, a credit union, and two insurance companies (Table 1). The banking sector is dominated by state and foreign institutions. Of the commercial banks, one (the Seychelles Savings Bank) is fully state-owned, another is majority state-owned (Nuovobanq, owned 78 percent by the state and 22 percent by Standard Chartered Bank of the UK), three others (Banque Française Commerciale, Habib Bank, and Bank of Baroda) are branches of foreign banks, headquartered respectively in Reunion, Pakistan, and India, and one (Barclays Bank) has recently converted from a foreign branch to a foreign subsidiary. The Development Bank of Seychelles is owned 55.5 percent by the government and the remainder by international institutions and a commercial bank. The Seychelles Housing Development Corporation is a parastatal and falls under the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Land Use and Habitat. One of the insurance companies is state-owned and the other is privately owned.

Table 1.

Seychelles: Assets of the Financial System

(December 31, 2001, unless otherwise indicated)

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Source: CBS, DBS, SHDC, SCU, and Fund staff calculations and estimates.

Total credit outstanding, net of provisions.

Based on balance sheet data as of June 30, 2001 for H. Savy Insurance and as of December 31, 2001 for SACOS.

The main laws and regulations governing the financial sector are: the Central Bank of Seychelles Act of 1982, amended in 1986, 1999, and 2001; the Financial Institutions Act of 1984, amended in 1995; the Financial Institutions Domestic and Non-Domestic Banking Business Regulations of 1996; the Insurance Act of 1994; the Seychelles International Business Authority Act, 1994; the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 1996, and the Guidance Notes on Anti-Money Laundering Procedures (March 1998).3

II. Offshore Financial Activity

It is a strategy of the government to promote offshore financial services, although relatively little offshore activity as yet takes place. This may in part be related to unfavorable published perceptions during 2000 by the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) and the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) about the quality of financial supervision. The FATF’s main grievance was with the Economic Development Act (EDA), which Seychelles enacted in 1995 but never implemented. The act, which protected large investors from prosecution, was repealed on August 2, 2000. This action was endorsed by the FATF and resulted in its retracting an earlier warning that financial institutions exercise caution in dealing with individuals and companies domiciled in Seychelles.

A distinction is drawn in legislation and policy between domestic and nondomestic (i.e., offshore banking). The current licensing and regulatory framework for offshore banks is in some areas more lenient than for domestic banks, including in relation to the initial minimum capital requirement. So far, a number of applications to establish offshore banks have been rejected because they did not meet CBS’s stated policy under which a prospective applicant must be a financial institution of international stature and reputation, and have an established track record of growth and profitable operation. CBS has, nonetheless, granted a temporary license to an offshore investment bank, whose applicants are not a financial institution. The investment bank has not yet been permitted to commence operations, pending further consideration of its business plan, and the enactment of enabling legislation for investment banking.

In its role as supervisor, SIBA is responsible for the licensing of Registered Agents and Trustees (i.e., those who set up and administer companies and trusts) and the registering of IBCs, trusts and companies registered within the Seychelles International Trade Zone. SIBA’s other main role is in promoting the Seychelles as an offshore corporate and financial services center and an international trading hub. The mission sees the dual role as regulator and promoter of offshore services as a potential conflict of interest, and recommends the separation of these functions in the medium term.

Despite considerable marketing efforts and the approval of legislation for a range of nonbanking and offshore financial activity (including offshore banks, a securities industry act and a mutual fund act) offshore activity has been limited to IBCs, trusts, SITZ companies, and two offshore insurance companies, which appear to be dormant.4 (At present there are no listed securities, stock exchange, or mutual funds.) IBC and SITZ fees generated less than US$700,000 in revenue during 2001, while additional government financing equivalent to US$400,000 was extended to finance SIBA’s activities. Nonetheless, SIBA is keen to expand offshore activities as a “third pillar” of economic activity.

SIBA has drawn up a plan under which all supervisory functions would be transferred to a new Financial Services Authority (FSA), other than that for banking which would remain with the Central Bank. SIBA itself would be subsumed in the new FSA. In many smaller jurisdictions a consolidation of supervisory agencies into a single entity can facilitate communication, concentrate expertise and make effective use of limited resources. However, in the Seychelles context, it would involve a very major commitment of expertise and resources, not presently available. Existing prudential expertise within the Seychelles rests principally with the Central Bank, which already is stretched to provide adequate supervision and regulation of the banking sector. Although a detailed assessment of the proposal is outside the immediate remit of the mission, the mission has reservations about attempting to establish a new umbrella supervisory agency or commission, on budgetary and expertise grounds. The Governor of the Central Bank indicated that he shared these concerns, and did not anticipate any move in this direction in the near future.

The mission recommends that SIBA:

  • Introduce a regulatory regime for registered agents for companies and trusts, by December 31, 2002.

  • Prepare revisions to IBC law to ensure that it meets best practice on disclosure and corporate governance standards by December 31, 2002.

III. Summary of Activity and Supervision of Nonbank Financial Institutions

The nonbank financial sector in the Seychelles consists of five institutions: a Government-owned and a private insurance company; a development bank (DBS) that is majority Government owned; a member-owned credit union (SCU), and a parastatal institution (SHDC) that is essentially an instrument of Government policy in the housing sector.

Insurance business is governed by the Insurance Act of 1994. While the Insurance Act calls for insurance companies to be regulated by the Ministry of Finance and Communications, there has been no supervision exercised during the past two years. However, the insurance companies are audited and do file balance sheets and income statements on an annual basis to the MOF. The Ministry is developing a plan to establish an independent Insurance Authority (outside CBS), chaired by an individual with expertise in insurance regulation. The two domestic insurance companies had pre-tax underwriting profits in the range of 15 to 18 percent of premium income in the year through June 30, 2001. Because of their limited size, the insurance companies rely heavily on re-insurance from overseas companies, which require premium payments in foreign currency. The mission recommends that Seychelles insurance companies be given priority to obtain foreign exchange to pay reinsurance premiums.

DBS has adequate capital and operates tax free. It recorded return on equity of around 6 percent in 2001, despite a relatively high level of NPLs. It would benefit from private sector representation on its Board and more flexibility in its loan pricing. It has borrowed at concessional rates in foreign currency from international NGOs and multilateral organizations, but onlends in domestic currency. Because it has limited access to foreign exchange, DBS is in arrears in its international debt servicing. DBS has the equity base to support domestic borrowing at market rates. Consideration should also be given to subjecting DBS to profits tax. Because of its borrowing in foreign currency, DBS would be vulnerable to a major depreciation in the exchange rate.

SCU is a member-owned cooperative institution with assets of about SR 40 million that provides limited savings banking services. As in the case of insurance companies, the Finance Ministry does not provide active supervision. SCU has relied heavily on its image as an easier place to borrow than commercial banks. It has had loan collection problems; its provisioning and accounting practices are suspect; and it will only be able to pay dividends to members of about 1.5 percent, based on 2001 performance. Also, about 12 percent of its loan portfolio is not serviced on a regular basis. The mission recommends that CBS undertake an onsite examination of SCU within the next six months, and thereafter every other year.

SHDC, whose activities are overseen by the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Land Use and Habitat, provides a third of the credit to the private sector. Its liabilities are heavily subsidized by the Government. It is charged with implementing the government’s housing policy, which has a major impact on resource allocation and income distribution in the Seychelles. The present system is complex and may provide subsidies where they are not warranted. At present the government is trying to encourage the commercial banks to take over some of the housing loans currently held by SHDC. The mission recommends greater transparency regarding goals and costs of SHDC, and better targeting of subsidies.

IV. Summary of Assessment under the Basel Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision

A. Banking Supervision in Seychelles

CBS is responsible for supervising banks, foreign exchange bureaus (one at present), and the securities market (although there is no local stock exchange). CBS expresses a keen willingness to try and meet international standards of supervision and AML/CFT practice. The BCP assessment therefore reflects an urgent need to update current practices rather than a reluctance to move forward.

CBS’ supervisory division (three supervisory and two administrative staff) are additionally involved in monitoring banks’ compliance with exchange control regulations and in acting as the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). There is an urgent need to increase resources. Part of this should be achieved by separating implementation of exchange control from supervision. Supervision’s interest on exchange control matters should be to ensure that banks have effective procedures in place and that they are acting properly. Spot checks solely related to exchange controls should be the responsibility of a dedicated exchange control unit liaising with supervision as necessary. Initially at least two additional supervisory staff are needed, with the potential to be trained for senior supervisory positions. In particular this is to increase CBS’ capability to undertake more frequent off and on-site supervision.

The head of the Bank Supervision Division (BSD) is on contract to CBS from Government. Salaries of BSD staff may be 50 percent or more below that of the private sector. In fact, a number of CBS staff have been lost to the private sector recently. This does not foster a positive career structure for supervisory staff, with a pay environment that recognizes the value of their professional responsibility and expertise.

Although exchange controls are continuing to have the serious consequences already described, one side effect is that it makes international money laundering very difficult to conduct since flows cannot easily move in and out of the country. All currency exchange is supervised by CBS under regulations specifying the priorities. Offshore accounts can be freely accessed, although there are few of them. Banks say that they therefore do not find it difficult to monitor flows in the accounts.

The mission was informed by bank auditing firms that banks are audited using international accounting standards. Banks are required to publish their balance sheets in the Official Gazette.

The legal preconditions for banking supervision are contained in the Central Bank Act and the Financial Institutions Act and these generally provide for remedial actions by CBS against banks that do not comply with prudential regulations. They also provide for revocation of bank licenses by CBS and/or for CBS to take possession of banks under exceptional circumstances. However, CBS must give 30 days notice before revoking a bank license. It is recommended that the notice requirement be removed. Also stiffer penalties and greater use of corrective actions for noncompliance with regulations is recommended. There is no deposit insurance scheme.

Recommendations and action plan

There is an urgent need to revise the Central Bank of Seychelles Act and the Financial Institutions Act into modern pieces of legislation properly reflecting the functions and responsibilities of an effective supervisory authority meeting international standards. The CBS needs to be given operating autonomy and to strengthen its supervisory functions.

Seychelles is proposing to expand its financial sector including through the attraction of offshore banking business. However, attracting offshore banking will require first putting in place a robust supervisory framework, since offshore entities will need to satisfy the requirements of their home supervisors. In particular, the present two-tier approach to domestic and nondomestic (offshore) banking operations, favoring the latter, is not in line with evolving best practice. The leading OFC’s are moving toward uniformity and greater transparency and disclosure for offshore banks and financial services.

The fact that Seychelles is, overall, materially non-compliant under the BCP assessment means that serious attention must be paid to extending and enhancing the depth and scope of prudential supervisory practices and procedures. The parent supervisor of any foreign bank setting up in Seychelles will also first look to see the extent to which it can rely on effective supervision locally. Additional staff and resources are needed to achieve these goals.

Key recommendations relate to the independence and autonomy of CBS, the licensing criteria and ownership of banks, AML/CFT procedures, the capital adequacy requirements for non-domestic banks, an expansion of the off and on-site supervision process, an extension of the role of auditors, much tighter loan concentration limits and CBS guidance on determining loan quality.

Of additional concern is the fact that CBS undertakes no hands-on supervision of banks’ liquidity positions. The Seychelles has no deposit insurance scheme and there are no formal arrangements to ensure banks’ liquidity should a crisis arise. A liquidity crisis (or run on deposits) would be acutely felt in view of the amount of public savings held in the system, and CBS would need to provide immediate support. It is recommended that urgent attention is given to this matter.

The presence of extensive exchange controls and an overvalued exchange rate have a major effect on the way in which the banking system is operating. In case of changes to the present arrangements going forward, the banking system could quickly be exposed to new risks. Supervisors would need to be prepared with an immediate response.

It is suggested that CBS should consider a contingency plan, which at the first stage would address a number of scenarios and the immediate response. For example a more freely convertible SR could lead to the following:

  • A short-term outflow of deposits: how would this affect the liquidity of banks?

  • A sudden inflow of foreign currency deposits from those making new investment.

  • Potential foreign exchange exposure for banks.

  • Increased lending opportunities for banks, including cross-border.

  • A heightened risk of money laundering.

The following is a summary of the key recommended actions to be taken by CBS:

  • Achieve appropriate compliance with the Basel Core Principles as described below.

  • Draft a new Financial Institutions Act and a new Central Bank Act by December 31, 2002.

  • Seek parliamentary approval of a new Financial Institutions Act and a new Central Bank Act by June 30, 2003.

  • Unify the regulatory and supervisory regimes for domestic and nondomestic (offshore) banking by June 30, 2003.

  • Remedy identified shortcomings in AML/CFT legislation and guidance, as recommended below.

  • Create a career path for developing existing experienced and new supervisory staff within CBS, redefine their responsibilities and expand resources by June 30, 2003.

  • Prepare a contingency plan on what additional supervisory measures would be necessary in the event that there is a material change in the present arrangements for exchange control by December 31, 2002.

Authorities’ response to the assessment

The Governor of the Central Bank and staff of the bank supervision division expressed appreciation for the assessments and the thorough and objective manner in which they were carried out. In the process of self-assessment, they had already recognized many of the weaknesses in banking legislation and banking supervision identified by the mission. They noted that banking legislation was outdated, having been put in place some twenty years earlier, and prior to the wide-ranging development of new products, banking services and best banking practices. They also recognized that there were important differences in the regulatory treatment of onshore and offshore banking, and they agreed with the mission’s recommendation to establish parity of treatment in this area. In his budget speech for 2002, the Minister of Finance announced the government’s intention to modernize the banking and central bank legislation. The authorities requested copies of model financial sector legislation and technical assistance to help draft a new Financial Institutions Act and a new Central Bank Act. The Governor will look into the feasibility of publishing draft bills in time for parliamentary consideration by the end of 2002. The authorities recognized the need to extend and enhance the frequency and depth of prudential supervisory practices and procedures. They intend to increase staffing of the bank supervision division so as to be able to carry out onsite inspections of banks at least every other year. They also recognize the need for increasing the use of external audits of banks in their own process of supervision and prudential regulation.

Table 2.

Seychelles: Recommended Actions to Improve Compliance with the Basel Core Principles

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V. Summary of Assessment of the Legal and Institutional Framework for AML/CFT and Implementation in the Banking Sector

A. Measures to Prevent Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

The Seychelles adopted the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AML Act) in 1996, one of the first countries in the region to do so. The AML Act addresses, inter alia, the criminalization of money laundering, forfeiture of proceeds of crime, special police powers and suspicious transactions reporting. It also empowers the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS) to determine identification and record keeping procedures for financial institutions. The obligation to file suspicious transaction reports extends to a broad range of entities such as financial institutions (banks, branches of foreign banks, foreign exchange bureaus) and other persons conducting activities as listed in the schedule attached to the AML Act (such as insurance companies, investment businesses, finance leasing companies, real estate businesses or casinos).

In 1998, the CBS issued Guidance Notes on anti-money laundering procedures. These legally non-binding Guidance Notes set out customer identification requirements and record keeping procedures. The Guidance Notes apply to financial institutions, but do not apply to those persons listed in the schedule attached to the AML Act. The Guidance Notes are quite specific regarding the identification requirements for resident customers opening individual accounts, and to a large extent, regarding corporate accounts by domestic companies, as well. However, the provisions concerning identification of non-resident individuals, non-resident companies, and IBCs, in particular, are not sufficient because of the heavy reliance placed on third party identification. In cases where an account is opened or a transaction is carried out for another person, the Guidance Notes stipulate that measures need to be taken to obtain information on the identity of such person. It is required that identification procedures be repeated when significant changes are observed and that wire transfer requests contain originator information.

The Guidance Notes establish satisfactory retention periods concerning customer identification documents and transaction records of financial institutions. The AML Act requires financial institutions and other persons, as specified, to report suspicious transactions without tipping-off the customer. Financial institutions must establish internal policies to prevent money laundering and are recommended to appoint a senior officer as compliance officer. Violations of obligations under the AML Act are sanctioned, but the penalties are relatively low.

Fit and proper tests are applied to managers, directors and significant shareholders of financial institutions in the licensing process, but subsequent changes do not require CBS approval. For the incorporation of domestic companies, several documents must be submitted to the company registry. The Company Registrar reviews the information submitted and, if deemed necessary, conducts background checks. The files at the company registry are available to the general public. The formation of not-for-profit organizations follows similar procedures, but regarding IBCs little information is publicly available.

Money laundering is criminalized in the AML Act and proceeds of crime are defined rather broadly. Money laundering is sanctioned by imprisonment for up to 15 years and/or imposition of a money penalty. There are no criminal provisions in place addressing terrorism, terrorist organizations or the financing of terrorism, but the authorities are currently considering the drafting of relevant legislation.

Assets used in the commission of a crime that are property of the offender may be forfeited upon conviction. In cases of money laundering, the courts may forfeit money or property constituting the proceeds of crime; all money and property in the possession of the person convicted of money laundering is deemed to have been derived from money laundering. Forfeiture of substitute assets is possible, but it is not clear whether this is also possible for assets of equivalent value. Assets may be temporarily seized as evidence, but the AML Act does not stipulate special provisions for temporary seizures.

The CBS carries out the functions of a financial intelligence unit in the Seychelles. Within the CBS, the Bank Supervision Division (comprising five staff members, including two support staff) is the responsible unit. The financial intelligence unit function not only extends to financial institutions but covers other entities such as insurance companies, investment businesses, finance leasing companies, real estate businesses, or casinos as well. Suspicious transaction reports must be submitted to the CBS. The CBS reviews incoming suspicious transaction reports to determine the presence of possible money laundering and, though not yet required under the law, also screens such reports for indications of terrorist financing. The CBS has access to information held in various registries. The CBS is not authorized to order a temporary freezing of transactions, but such order could be issued by a court. The CBS forwards information on suspected money laundering to the Commissioner of Police for further investigation and action. The CBS requests information from foreign regulatory authorities as needed and also responds to requests from foreign regulatory authorities, if necessary, in consultation with the Attorney-General. The CBS may enter into memoranda of understanding with foreign regulatory counterparts, but no memoranda of understanding have yet been signed. CBS staff is subject to confidentiality requirements.

The Republic of Seychelles acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Vienna Convention) and has signed, but not yet ratified, the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention) and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. Ratification of both conventions is expected by the end of 2002. As provided for in the Constitution, it is possible to extradite a resident Seychelles’ national. The Attorney-General is responsible for mutual legal assistance matters related to the investigation or prosecution of money laundering.

There are currently six commercial banks and one foreign exchange bureau (but no money transfer/remittance companies) operating in the Seychelles. The CBS includes a review of customer identification procedures in its onsite inspections and treats compliance with anti-money laundering measures as an integral part of checking that a bank is operating in a prudent manner. In general, the banks apply adequate customer identification requirements regarding individual accounts by residents. However, procedures applied to other types of accounts need improvement.

Recommendations and action plan

The following actions are recommended to improve the legal and institutional framework and to strengthen the implementation of AML/CFT measures in the banking sector:

The AML Act should be amended in a number of areas. Foremost, provisions on customer identification and record keeping procedures should be established in the AML Act rather than in non-binding Guidance Notes. The customer identification requirements regarding non-resident individuals and non-resident companies, as well as regarding IBCs, should be strengthened. It should be emphasized in the law that suspicious transaction reports must be submitted promptly without undue delay, and that reporting entities and their staff are afforded legal protection when submitting suspicious transaction reports in good faith. The maximum penalties for noncompliance with specific reporting and other obligations imposed under the AML Act should be increased. The authorities should consider the possibility to grant explicit authority to the CBS to impose administrative fines directly under the constitutional framework. Internal controls should be extended to also address terrorist financing issues, and the AML Act should be amended to require the appointment of a compliance officer.

In order to ensure high standards of integrity in the financial and corporate sector, the FIA and the AML Act should be amended to provide for CBS approval of any subsequent changes in management, directors and significant shareholders. With regard to other persons, the authorities may consider to establish fit and proper standards in the AML Act. The Company Registrar should intensify background checks for managers, directors and shareholders in domestic companies. Regarding IBCs, SIBA should increase its level of oversight and carry out plans to strengthen the licensing of registered agents and trustees.

Legislation criminalizing terrorism, terrorist organizations and terrorist financing should be adopted as soon as possible, and by December 31, 2002 at the latest. Such provisions could be incorporated in existing legislation or established in a separate law as currently envisaged by the AG. The AML Act should be amended to stipulate the loss of authority to do business as one of the sanctions for money laundering. The authorities should continue their efforts to ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the Palermo Convention as soon as possible, and by December 31, 2002 at the latest.

The legal provisions on forfeiture should be amended to explicitly provide for the forfeiture of substitute assets obtained with funds that were partly proceeds of crime and partly legitimate resources, and for the forfeiture of assets of equivalent value. The provisions should also be clarified regarding the forfeiture of any income or gains received on proceeds of crime. The AML Act should be amended to permit the temporary seizure of assets.

Concerning the institutional arrangements, the Central Bank Act should be amended to clearly set out that the CBS may exercise the function of a financial intelligence unit in the Seychelles. The AML Act should be further amended to provide for an effective mechanism to freeze suspicious transactions and CBS staff should be protected by granting explicit personal legal protection when carrying out their official duties. One additional staff experienced in AML/CFT issues should be allocated to AML/CFT issues. The flow of information between the various government entities involved in the AML/CFT effort should be improved and a forum to combine the financial expertise of CBS staff with the investigative knowledge of the police force should be put in place. The powers of CBS to receive and disseminate information should be specified in law.

Regarding the implementation of AML/CFT measures in the banking sector, the CBS should carry out onsite inspections focusing on AML/CFT issues and intensify training sessions on recent best practices regarding AML/CFT issues. Banks should be required to submit their AML/CFT internal guidelines to CBS for review, and CBS should regularly provide updated guidance on identifying suspicious transactions. Banks should increase their focus on identifying the ultimate beneficial owners of funds and rigorous customer identification procedures for IBCs need to be put in place. The CBS should issue special guidance regarding private banking activities and higher risk customers, such as politically exposed persons, and issue guidance to banks alerting them to the need to consolidate customer accounts for monitoring and suspicious transaction reporting purposes. The procedures for cooperation and exchange of information with central banks and foreign regulatory authorities should be enhanced and formalized. The reviews of the CBS concerning fit and proper requirements for managers, directors and significant shareholders should be strengthened.

Table 3.

Seychelles: Recommended Actions to Strengthen AML/CFT Measures

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Authorities’ response to the assessment

Seychelles is committed to bringing its regulatory and supervisory regime into compliance with international banking and anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing standards. The recommendations of the IMF OFC Module 2 assessment team will be studied carefully and either incorporated into proposed legislative changes to be presented to the National Assembly for approval or into regulations for implementation, whichever is appropriate. We note, however, that Seychelles is a small country with limited resources and expertise. We are requesting technical assistance to help us in implementing the recommendations regarding banking regulation and supervision and anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing.

VI. Technical Assistance Needs

In April 2002, a multi-donor initiative was launched, aimed at promoting robust and diverse financial sectors in developing countries. The Financial Sector Reform and Strengthening (FIRST) Initiative is expected to complement and support other donor activities in strengthening national financial sectors through highly targeted, responsive projects proposed to it by developing countries and their advisors. FIRST is an international initiative jointly undertaken by the World Bank, the IMF and national development agencies—the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland (SECO). It is expected that FIRST may be used to help provide technical assistance in countries that have undergone assessments under the Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) and under the Offshore Financial Center (OFC) initiative, such as the present OFC Module 2 Assessment for Seychelles.

A. Banking Sector Needs

Based on its findings and priorities identified by the authorities, the mission recommends technical assistance to assist the authorities in drafting an entirely new Financial Institutions Act and an entirely new Central Bank Act. Both acts have been found to be in need of such substantial modernization that amendments to them would be insufficient to resolve many weaknesses. It is suggested that the Fund’s Legal and Monetary and Exchange Affairs Departments transmit model laws for financial institutions and the central bank, respectively, by September 2002. The Fund will consider providing technical assistance as a team consisting of LEG and MAE staff and possibly an expert consultant from outside the Fund.

Among other features, the new Central Bank Act would need to more clearly specify the objectives of the Central Bank and the priority to be given to those objectives; should include the prevention of financial crime as one of those objectives; and would need to establish the autonomy of the Central Bank in pursuing those objectives. It should also provide for CBS guidance on determining loan quality and provisioning. The new Financial Institutions Act should, inter alia, strengthen the autonomy of the Central Bank by removing numerous references to authority for the Ministry of Finance to take decisions on banking regulations, and to rule on appeals of Central Bank enforcement orders relative to sound banking practices. In addition, the FIA should establish identical supervisory and regulatory arrangements for domestic and offshore banking. Also the licensing criteria for bank managers and shareholders need to be strengthened; much tighter loan concentration limits should be established; and the role of auditors in assuring that banks meet prudential requirements should be increased. Moreover, the FIA should provide for the CBS to give instructions to banks on rules for loan classification and provisioning.

In addition to the drafting of new central bank and banking legislation, the authorities are interested in a multi-topic MAE technical mission. This mission could help support a move to indirect instruments of monetary control. This would need to be accompanied by a relaxation of administered interest rates to allow for positive real rates, a further decline in the local asset rate and overhaul of the rediscount and standing facilities. Liquidity management operations would also need to be expanded through the securitization of a substantial amount of CBS advances to the government. A multi-topic MAE technical assistance mission could also help the Central Bank address the need for measures to provide emergency liquidity support and lender-of-last resort facilities to banks in case of external shocks and to consider the options for a limited deposit insurance scheme.

B. Technical Assistance Needs in AML/CFT

Based on its findings and priorities identified by the authorities, the mission recommends technical assistance to assist the authorities in drafting and amending legislation in the area of AML/CFT. Currently, issues related to combating the financing of terrorism are not properly addressed by the legal framework, and drafting new legislation criminalizing terrorism, terrorist organizations and terrorist financing should take priority (in line with the anticipated ratification of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime).

In the area of anti-money laundering, the AML Act needs to be amended in a number of areas, such as by establishing customer identification and record keeping requirements in the law, providing for prompt submission of suspicious transaction reports and an effective mechanism to freeze suspicious transactions. Furthermore, an explicit provision on personal liability protection for actions carried out in good faith in the course of official action is necessary for CBS staff in the financial intelligence unit function. The penalty scheme in the AML Act for specific reporting and other obligations requires an overhaul.

In an effort to improve supervisory powers, including the oversight on AML/CFT issues, the fit and proper requirements applying to managers, directors and shareholders of financial institutions under the FIA need to be strengthened, which could be further discussed in the context of technical assistance for a new banking law.

APPENDIX I List of Laws and Regulations Pertaining to the Financial Sector, Financial Sector Regulation, and Anti-Money Laundering Framework

Anti-Money Laundering Act, 1996 (Act 8 of 1996)

Byelaws of Seychelles Credit Union

Central Bank of Seychelles Act, 1982, as amended in 1986

Central Bank of Seychelles (Amendment) Act, 1999 (Act 11 of 1999)

Central Bank of Seychelles (Amendment) Act, 2001 (Act 5 of 2001)

Civil Code of Seychelles Act, 1976

Co-operatives Act, 1987

Criminal Procedure Code, 1955

Economic Development Act, 1995 (Act 20 of 1995)

Economic Development (Repeal) Act, 2000 (Act 9 of 2000)

Extradition Act, 1991

Financial Institutions Act, 1984, as amended in 1995

Financial Institutions (Domestic Banking Business) Regulations, 1996

Financial Institutions (Non-Domestic Banking Business) Regulations, 1996

Financial Institutions (Bureau de Change) Regulations, 1997

Guidance Notes on Anti-Money Laundering Procedures for Seychelles Banks and other Financial Institutions, issued by Central Bank of Seychelles, March 1998

Guidance Notes for Banks: Minimum Capital Adequacy Requirements in Seychelles, May 1999

International Trust Act 1994 (Act 26 of 1994)

International Trust (Amendment) Act 2000 (Act 6 of 2000)

Insurance Act 1994

Insurance (Amendment) Act 1995 (Act No. 24 of 1995)

International Business Companies Act 1994, as amended in 1995, 1997, and 2000

International Trade Zone Act 1995 (Act 8 of 1995)

Misuse of Drugs Act, 1990

Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, 1995

Mutual Fund Act, 1997 (Act No. 13 of 1997)

Mutual Fund Act, 1998 Mutual Fund (Structure and Operations) Regulations, 1998

Penal Code, 1955

Securities Industry Act, 1995 (Act 22 of 1995)

Seychelles International Business Authority Act, 1994

APPENDIX II Authorities’ Response to Action Plans

The Government of the Seychelles provided the Monetary and Financial Systems Department (MFD) of the IMF with letters and tables outlining the steps it has taken to address both the general and specific recommendations of the report. The authorities are in the process of incorporating comments received from interested parties on the draft banking and central bank legislation. Once this has been done, they indicate that the necessary approvals to have the bills enacted will be sought.

A. Authorities’ Detailed Updated Response to BCP Assessment

Following is the detailed response, arranged by Basel Core Principle (with gray background), associated recommended actions, and CBS’ comments.

Table 4.

Seychelles: BCP Action Plan and Authorities’ Response

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B. Action Plan on Anti-Money Laundering and combating the Financing of Terrorism

Seychelles is committed to strengthen its legal framework and supervisory regime in line with international standards on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism. In order to build the legal basis for effectively combating the financing of terrorism, we have recently prepared and published a bill on Prevention of Terrorism for discussion and approval by our Parliament. In particular, the Prevention of Terrorism Bill criminalizes the financing of terrorism with extra-territorial application as envisioned by the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and provides for the mechanism and authority to gather information to deter terrorist activities.

In the area of anti-money laundering, we plan to amend the existing legislation. We are taking into consideration the recommendations and draft legislation prepared by IMF staff based on the revised FATF 40 Recommendations and the Special 8 Recommendations on Terrorist Financing in the context of technical assistance. As a first step, the AML Act will be amended to allow for the Minister of Finance to issue regulations in the areas brought out in the recommendations in the AML/CFT assessment. The new regulations are expected to be in place by end 2004.

In addition to the envisaged strengthening of the legal and regulatory framework, we have taken a number of steps to enhance the implementation of AML/CFT measures in the banking sector. In particular, in the last two years the CBS carried out on-site inspections of banks that among other issues focused on AML/CFT issues. During these inspections we evaluated the banks’ policies and procedures in this area. Of the six banks under the supervision of the CBS, five inspections were carried out over the course of the last two years and the sixth bank is due for an on-site inspection in early September 2004, including a detailed examination of AML/CFT issues. Moreover, to increase overall awareness and to emphasize recent best practices concerning AML/CFT issues, we have been carrying on training sessions for the staff of the banks (including the Seychelles Credit Union) since February of this year.

Table 5.

Seychelles: AML/CFT Action Plan and Authorities’ Response

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3

A more comprehensive list of laws and regulations pertaining to the financial sector and to the anti-money laundering framework is contained in Appendix I.

4

SIBA collects little information about IBCs, other than their names. Also companies are struck off the list if they fail to pay annual renewal fees.