The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has obtained a court order against Varona Limited, allegedly linked to a casino gaming facility, regarding enforcement of anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism laws.
The Finance Ministry issued a statement on that yesterday, saying the matter was its third High Court Order against listed businesses.
It was also the first order of its kind for enforcement of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism deficiencies against one of its supervised entities. The issue falls under Section 18H (8) of the Financial Intelligence Unit of T&T for breaches of the Financial Obligations Regulations (2010).According to company lookup website, a company bearing the same name as Varona Ltd is described as a private Port-of-Spain business and nightclub located at Frederick Street. A number listed for that company went unanswered.
When T&T Guardian visited the location yesterday the premises were empty.
A for sale/rent sign was up. A spokesman in connection with the sign said they were involved in the rental/sale only and couldn't speak for the "Laughing Buddha" business that had moved out some time ago. They also said the sign was up since the Education Ministry which rented the upstairs of the building had also moved out. A Facebook page of Varona Ltd was blank.
CaribbeanJobs site described the company as being founded in 1999 by a "Kuala Lumpur parent company" and it was in the "hospitality and gaming industries," featuring a "Las Vegas style casino."
That article alluded to a Club de Vegas" private members' entity and casino. Subsidiaries were noted in Newtown, central and east Trinidad. Calls to several listed phone numbers for Varona Ltd entities on Frederick Street, which had featured Japanese cuisine, went unanswered.
The ministry said Varona Ltd was subject to a July 2015 FIU directive identifying a number of breaches of the Financial Obligations Regulations and specifying timelines to remedy.
"Upon the failure of Varona Limited to comply with the directive, the FIU, in accordance with Section 18H (8) of the FIU Act, applied to the High Court for an order to compel compliance."
The ministry stated: "This order further enhances the FIU's efforts to effectively supervise businesses to ensure compliance with Financial Obligation Regulations aimed at effective implementation of systems/controls for the identification and mitigation of risk for money laundering and financing of terrorism occurring through the listed business sectors."