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Attorney: T&T failing to tackle white collar crime

By Carla Bridglal carla.bridglal@trinidadexpress.com

 THE investigation of white collar crime in Trinidad and Tobago is non-existent, attorney and anti-money laundering expert David West said yesterday.

Trinidad and Tobago has had zero prosecutions and zero convictions for money laundering since institutions were mandated to report suspicious transactions to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in 2010; from 2010 to 2013 the FIU has reported $1.2 billion worth of suspicious transactions. 

This shows banks and other entities are reporting to the FIU and doing their jobs; what we have in this country is a serious problem with monitoring and evaluating of money laundering, he said at an American Chamber of Commerce breakfast seminar on White Collar Crime at the  Hilton Ballroom.

“We are still deficient from the third round evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and going into the fourth round of evaluation with no legislation (for new requirements like Weapons of Mass Destruction and tax evasion); come 2014 after we are evaluated we will see exactly where we stand, which I can say from now does not look like a pretty picture,” he said.

West said the country has passed all the necessary legislation (like the Finance Act in 2012) to comply with the FATF’s guidelines, but while “we are great at passing laws, we cannot enforce them.”

When suspicious transactions are reported to the FIU, they in turn hand it over to four investigative bodies: the Financial Intelligence Bureau (FIB) of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS); the Board of Inland Revenue; Customs; or Immigration. After their investigations, they in turn hand over to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

But the investigative capacity of the FIB is diminished by lack of expertise and training.

“The FIB was set up ad hoc because we had to comply with FATF guidelines and they staffed the department with people they seconded and have a few years left on their contracts. They aren’t interested in money laundering. Then they send these people away for training two weeks in Jamaica and then expect them to be qualified to investigate money laundering? That cannot work. And the US and British do training sessions, but under their laws, not ours, so (it is difficult to reconcile the differences). They are at a loss with no proper guidance,” he said. 

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