Caribbean Financial Action Task Force meeting concludes in Bahamas
The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) recently concluded is 38th Plenary meeting in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The CFATF is an organisation of 29 states in the Caribbean basin that have agreed to implement common counter measures to address the problem of money laundering. The main objective of the CFATF is to achieve effective implementation of and compliance with the Financial Action Task Force’s 40 recommendations to prevent money laundering and to combat the financing of terrorism.
Currently, CFATF members include Anguilla, Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Montserrat, Nicaragua, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Maarten, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands and Venezuela.
Representatives from co-operating and supporting nations such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada as well as officials from the World Bank were present.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Attorney General Anand Ramlogan addressed the plenary session on the progress made to date by the country and the challenges faced in achieving full implementation.
He said significant progress has been made but there is room for improvement. The government is committed to the global fight against money laundering and financing of terrorist groups which pose a threat to democracies the world over.
The attorney general highlighted the substantial progress made by the Financial Intelligence Unit in areas such as supervision of the listed business sector which includes attorneys, accountants, real estate agents, motor vehicle dealers, private members clubs, jewellers and money value transfer services. There was an increase in the reporting of suspicious transactions from this sector.
This augured well for the unprecedented supervision of this cash-based sector which is susceptible to money laundering. The banking sector maintained its consistently high level of reporting and consequently the FIU substantially increased its analysis of suspicious transaction reports and submission of intelligence reports to law enforcement agencies.
The major challenge identified was the investigation by the Financial Investigations Branch of the intelligence reports on suspicious activities forwarded by the FIU. Unfortunately, there have not been criminal prosecutions and convictions. This is an area which the attorney general has red-flagged as needing improvement since it impacts negatively on the effectiveness of the work that was being done.
Another critical area was the need for better regulation of the credit union sector.
Ramlogan pointed out that the government was awaiting the report from the CLICO/HCU Commission of Enquiry before it proceeded on this as it was part of the mandate of Sir Anthony Coleman who was the deputy chief justice of the prestigious International Commercial Law Court in Dubai. That report is expected before Easter and would address the vulnerabilities in the present regulatory structure and will inform the Bill to be laid in Parliament. He stated that the government will give this matter special attention as soon as the Coleman report was received.
Trinidad and Tobago will use the first stage of the enhanced follow up sessions mandated by the CFATF to work together with officials to ensure compliance as the government moves swiftly to address the remaining issues.
The outgoing chair of the CFATF, Cherno Jallow QC, director of policy research and statistics, British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission, passed the baton of leadership to Senator Allison Maynard-Gibson, attorney general of The Bahamas.