On his first day on his new job as Paraguay's Secretary of Prevention against Money Laundering (Seprelad), said his country was better equipped now to face the challenges posed by Tuesday's report from the Latin American Financial Action Task Force (Gafilat) which resulted in his appointment.
President Mario Abdo Benítez issued a decree ordering Fernández to take over from Carlos Arregui after Gafilat pointed to several red flags within the Paraguayan system.
Fernández insisted Paraguay now has better legal tools to solve these matters, although he admitted that he was taking office amid a critical moment.
It is a big challenge for the justice system, said the new official, who underlined the importance of the package of laws approved in 2019 to fight money laundering.
It does not mean that criminality is scarce or that the fight against scourges has been won, but the country, from the regulatory point of view, is better prepared and that scenario demands greater commitment from the actors and components of the system, he added.
The departing Seprelad boss Carlos Arregui also acknowledged he had discussed his leaving with President Abdo earlier this year and that during his last trip to Quito in July he already said goodbye to his Latin American colleagues.
I already knew that I was ending my spell at Seprelad; my commitment was to continue until the [Gafilat] evaluation.
The Gafilat report showed that despite Paraguay's legal system, there is a low level of investigation, prosecution, and conviction of cases related to this crime.
Paraguay had dodged entering the gray list of the intergovernmental organization by agreeing to the evaluation that resulted in this week's report, which suggests Paraguay should prioritize the development of parallel financial investigations, facilitate the seizure of assets and strengthen cooperation between the Attorney General's Office and intelligence agencies.
The new minister of Seprelad, René Fernández, had been working as head of the Anti-Corruption Secretariat (Senac), while in his replacement, lawyer Federico Hetter was appointed as interim minister, while Arregui would take over as a member of the board of directors of the Banco Nacional de Fomento (BNF).
Paraguay also announced that the current Minister of the Presidential Management Unit (UGP), Carmen Marín, would leave her job to take up a position as a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of
Paraguay (BCP), pending Congressional approval.