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a bill to extend banking secrecy to microfinance and electronic payment operators

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(Ecofin Agency) – 18 years old, the Cameroonian law on banking secrecy did not anticipate thehe evolutions of financial sectorwith their procession of risks related to the development of criminal activities such as terrorist financing, cybercrime, etc.

The Cameroonian government has just tabled a bill governing banking secrecy on the table of parliamentarians, reports Invest in Cameroon. The text now takes into account microfinance and electronic payment operators.

In the explanatory memorandum to the said bill, we learn that, “in view of developments in the financial and technological sector“, certain aspects of the law in force so far, 18 years old, have become outdated. Also, the developments noted in the financial sector are today accompanied by new risks linked to the development of criminal activities, namely money laundering, cybercrime, and the financing of terrorism.

If the draft text is passed as it stands, microfinance establishments and electronic payment operators will henceforth be subject to banking secrecy like ordinary banks. Banking secrecy here consists, according to the draft law, in the obligation of confidentiality to which the institutions subject are bound with regard to the acts, facts and information concerning their clients, of which they become aware in the exercise of their professions.

But the text indicates that banking secrecy also implies that the institutions subject to it must collaborate with the judicial authorities which can carry out investigations or the administrations which fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The law provides for example that a deposit of more than 5 million FCFA in a financial establishment is reported to the National Agency for Financial Investigations (Anif), for information.

In other words, microfinance institutions and electronic payment operators that were not taken into account in the old law governing bank secrecy were not required to apply the rights (non-disclosure of bank data ) and duties (collaboration with judicial and monetary authorities). In the future, if parliament passes this law, these new players will be subject to the same rules as ordinary banks.

The non-observance of this banking secrecy, according to the text submitted to the appreciation of parliamentarians, is punishable by imprisonment of three months to three years, and a fine of 1 million to 50 million FCFA, or one of these two penalties only. If the offense is committed by means of the written press, radio, television, by means of electronic communication or by any other means intended to reach the public, the penalties are doubled. Provision is also made for the closure, for a fixed period, of the establishment or branches used to commit the incriminated acts.

Sylvain Andzongo

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