WASHINGTON, United States of America April 10, 2018 (CMC) – The United States says despite the police bringing cash seizure and forfeiture cases to the courts, there have not been any money laundering convictions, to date, in Trinidad and Tobago.
The State Department, in its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report on Money Laundering and Financial Crimes, said that Trinidad and Tobago’s close proximity to drug-producing countries, relatively stable economy, and developed financial systems, make it a target for criminals looking to launder money.
The report notes that proceeds from drug trafficking, illegal arms sales, fraud, tax evasion, and public corruption are the most common sources of laundered funds, and are derived from both domestic and international criminal activity.
“Narcotics-trafficking organizations and organized crime entities, operating locally and internationally, control the majority of illicit proceeds moving through the country,” Washington said.
“There have not been any money-laundering convictions, to date, although the Police Services Financial Investigations Branch continues to bring cash seizure and forfeiture cases to the courts,” it added,
The report notes that Trinidad and Tobago institutions, encompassed in the anti-money laundering (AML) regime, continue to be challenged, due to capacity and resource constraints.
“Sustained capacity-building, ensuring adequate legislation, regulating the gaming industry, and increasing cooperation among law enforcement entities, the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit), and the judiciary, would greatly improve AML investigations and the rate of convictions.”
But the report notes that Trinidad and Tobago’s AML regime is unable to quantify the extent to which fraud and public corruption contribute to money laundering.
“Fraud and waste in government procurement have been identified as problems, but rarely result in convictions. The failure to prosecute financial crimes, successfully, has a corrosive impact on the integrity of public finances and may encourage others to engage in financial crimes.”
Washington said that Trinidad and Tobago currently has 13 financial prosecutions and no convictions to date.
“AML stakeholders continue to face many challenges, and Trinidad and Tobago has taken steps to address deficiencies. In 2016, Trinidad and Tobago appointed a Seized Assets Committee, to establish regulations and management of monies, seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.”
The State department said that money laundering also occurs outside the traditional financial system.
“While public casinos and online gaming are illegal in Trinidad and Tobago, gamblers take advantage of “private members’ clubs”, which operate as casinos and are able to move large amounts of cash, due to Trinidad and Tobago’s lack of adequate AML supervision of this sector.
“Reports also suggest that certain local, religious organizations are involved in money laundering,” Washington said, using FIU and Customs and Excise Division officials to support the allegation.
The report notes that there are 17 free trade zones (FTZ) in Trinidad and Tobago, where manufactured products are exported.
“Companies must present proof of legitimacy and are subject to background checks, prior to being allowed to operate in the FTZs, and while operating, are required to submit tax returns, quarterly, and audited financial statements, yearly. There is no evidence the FTZs are involved in money-laundering schemes.”
But the report indicated that while Trinidad and Tobago does not have a significant offshore banking sector, the volume of money laundering in the offshore banking sector is unknown”.