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Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Anti-money laundering expert: FIU to come up to scratch in a few years
The Financial Intelligence Unit of T&T (FIU) is in its infancy stage, but anti-money laundering expert Matthew McGuire says he thinks in a few years it will come up to par to deal swiftly with cases. McGuire praised the structure and foundation that had been put in place saying “it’s right up there with the best countries now.”
However, he said it was the operation of the vehicle that mattered in moving forward. He said, “We need to see very quickly the outcomes, and the outcomes we are looking for is the seizure of criminal money, the forfeiture of criminal money, prosecutions and jail sentences. I would say that we would see those outcomes in the next two or three years.”
He said there was the need to have prosecutors who were willing to prosecute cases and judges who were willing to accept “the attack on the money” rather than focus on a specific offence. McGuire is a forensic accountant by training and is the national leader of MNP’s Anti-Money Laundering Services line, part of the firm’s investigative and forensic services practice.
MNP is considered one of the largest chartered accountancy and business consulting firms in Canada. Some of their services include assurance and accounting, tax, consulting, corporate finance, enterprise risk services, investigative and forensics and corporate recovery and insolvency.
McGuire conducted a two-day training seminar for analysts at the FIU on Thursday and Friday. It was entitled Tactical and Strategic Financial Intelligence and topics included forensic accounting techniques, trade-based money laundering and terrorist financing, typologies, detection and effective intelligence reports.
The attendees were law enforcement officials from Customs and Excise, the Financial Investigation Branch of the T&T Police Service, the Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit, Organised Crime Narcotics and Firearm Bureau, prosecutors from the DPP’s office and FIU analysts. McGuire was invited T&T by the High Commission of Canada.
Attacking criminals on the streets, balance sheets
McGuire spoke with the Sunday Guardian on Friday at the Hyatt Regency. There’s a global movement afoot, not just to attack criminals on the street but on bank statements and balance sheets. McGuire said, “If we take the profit out of the crime then there’ll be less crime and less criminals.
“You can remove somebody from the chain and put them in jail but if it’s profitable then that void will be filled very quickly, so what the FIU, prosecutorial service and law enforcement officials are looking for is what tools can we put in our tool chest to be able to attack them and hit them where its hurts, even in the pocket.” McGuire said he taught the group how to trace where money comes from and where it goes, using indirect ways to figure out what a person’s illicit sources of income are and how to profile.
He said a person could be profiled based on a series of databases, looking at the differences in funds, what’s accounted for from legitimate sources and determining “how do we explain the rest?” McGuire, who did a post graduate degree in forensic accounting in two years said the training was “quite intensive,” and he joked that he attempted to explain two years of studies in two days. “The feedback was incredible.
“It was a lens we hadn’t looked through before. “They felt invigorated by the new tools and felt eager to start to practice using them.” However, while he said there was a lot of talent, it was the development of that talent that’s going to be the thing that “will set them apart over time.”
FIU in infancy stage
He said before his visit he had known just a little about T&T but then read a lot. McGuire said, “The one thing about the FIU is that it’s in its infancy.
“Some countries have had a FIU for like 20 years.” T&T’s FIU was incorporated under the Financial Intelligence Act of 2009. It was set up to implement the anti-money laundering policies of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which is an inter-governmental organisation set up by the Group of Seven industrialised countries. The FATF’s main objective is to develop and provide international policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
In August 2012, speaking in the Senate, Finance Minister Larry Howai said according to the annual FIU reports for 2010 and 2011, over $700 million was suspected to be involved in money laundering. In June, a Trinidad Guardian article said the FIU report for 2012 showed just over $638 million in dirty money transactions passed through the financial system for that year.
McGuire said, “If you look at their 2012 report you’d see that they have been on a good and successful outreach campaign that’s already paying dividends.” He said financial intelligence was dependent on inputs, and the inputs were the reports from financial institutions and the list of businesses.
“They have to tell us what they see that they think is a problem in a way that is detailed and useful so that we can assemble that data, conduct additional intelligence analysis and give disclosures to law enforcement, and so they’ve spent the first while getting an incredible Web site and a set of guidance available to financial institutions that’s paying dividends in the way of...we have nearly 1,000 suspicious transaction reports that they have been able to implement, produce high quality intelligence under the oversight of their director. “
McGuire said it was now up to law enforcement “to run with that.” He said another problem was getting prosecutors who were willing to prosecute cases and judges who were willing to accept that attack on the money rather than the focus on a specific offence.
Understanding how to solve problems
McGuire said there was much to benefit from the training. “First is understanding how other countries have solved problems that there are encountering right now. “More particularly, how do you take vast swathes of data and conduct analysis on it in a way that is useful to law enforcement that prosectorial authorities will understand and judges will ultimately take action on?” He said he likes to look at money laundering as flowing down a river and “we are setting up a dam to stop it.” He explained, “So if
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