Trinidad and Tobago is at risk of being blacklisted by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) if by 2014 it continues to fail to prosecute anyone under anti-money laundering or combating the financing of terrorism (AML-CFT) laws. So said attorney and Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist David West at a seminar at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain yesterday. Speaking at the event organised by the Anointed Professionals Exhibiting Excellence (APEX), West said, "Come 2014, somebody is going to have to be charged."
He explained that "in 2010 there were $263 million worth of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs); in 2011, there were $569 million worth of SARs; that's $832 million worth of SARs and there have been no prosecutions." However, the situation is even more alarming for the first half of 2012 where already, $500.47 million of SARs have been reported.
Keith King, CEO and chairman of Firstline Securities who also spoke, later compounded West's figures saying SARs and Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) totalled 303 in 2011, up from 111 in 2010. King said SARs and STRs totalled $304.1 million in dollar terms in 2011, up from $85.7 million in 2010.
"This represents a 172 per cent increase in the amount of SARs/STRs and a 254.84-per cent increase in dollar terms (or) value of the reports," King told the audience which included financial advisers, representatives of financial institutions and attorneys.
'T&T?not ready for 4th round evaluation'
On one of his powerpoint slides, King showed attendees that at the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), "121 suspicious activity transactions/activity reports were received and disseminated between January and June 2012. Total value of the SARs/STRs for the first half of 2012 is $500.47 million."
He said that "only half of the year has gone by and we have already surpassed 2011," and later added that very few cases have led to prosecutions or convictions. He cited the only two to the best of his knowledge to be the Piarco airport corruption case and the Vicky Boodram case.
Speaking after Financial adviser Roger Hernandez of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), who was tight-lipped about the results of the 3rd Round of Mutual Evaluation Reports, West said that independently of the results from the 3rd Round, "Trinidad and Tobago is not ready for the 4th Round of Mutual Evaluation Reports."
The evaluation report provides a summary of the AML-CFT measures in place in Trinidad and Tobago, and influences whether the country stays on the grey list, moves to the white list or falls to the black list. There are 12 pieces of legislation dealing with AML-CFT and the country has witnessed "amendment after amendment," West said. "How do we expect people to catch up and know what to follow?" he asked rhetorically.
He said it was his view that T&T needs more suitably qualified people to draft the laws because the current draftspeople "are limited in what they know" and lack the specialised training necessary.