Kudos to Govt on strengthening FIU
It was great news hearing the many new provisions made with the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill that dealt with the Finance Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Anti-Terrorism Bill in Parliament on Friday.
I do feel a deep sense of joy and pride as the announcements and passage of this Bill indeed signal we are on the path to First World status. Like the United States, this country is putting structures in place to effectively deal with white-collar crime.
In helping to combat and also deter white-collar crime, the FIU will have the power and authority to scrutinise all public authorities. These include all ministries, their departments, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and all its units, regional health authorities, statutory corporations, service commissions and any entity funded by our taxpayers' dollars.
This was truly welcoming news to subtly scream to all benefiting from hard-earned taxpayers' dollars: "We are watching you, and you are not above the law."
To ensure its mandate, the FIU now, like what obtains in progressive nations, would be working in tandem with other key agencies like the Central Bank (chief regulatory body for all financial institutions) and other public authorities and would be able to solicit information and co-operation of these bodies to conduct probes of those suspected of nefarious activities. To ensure compliance, if a person or institution under probe refuses to comply or co-operate with the FIU, they can now go to the High Court and get an order required to obtain information when conducting a probe.
Like many other citizens, while I welcome this great news as a step in the right direction, I was concerned about "safe-guard" measures as the FIU will have access and authority to almost everyone's personal information, financial resources and standing, and be privy to a lot. Much to my relief, and many others, any official or employee with the FIU who discloses confidential information or leaks it is liable to a fine of $250,000 and three years of imprisonment, a clear signal to those with ulterior motives.
I think it is counter-productive at this time to engage in the blame game as those who waged war on condemning this Government should ask themselves why the former administration didn't include these much-needed provisions in the original legislation passed since 2009, as we have been a member of the regional sub-body for the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 2007. There was also a failure of the former administration to appoint a permanent director of the FIU —a major requirement of FATF.
It is most fitting now to congratulate the Government for making the necessary provisions, and the Opposition, also, for its support. In our 50th year of Independence, we have much again to celebrate as this is a step in the path of progressive nation status. Along with our Olympic heroes who did us proud, we now have jurisprudence on the same plane with other progressive societies who are also putting effective measures in place to deal with rising white-collar crime.