WITH the amendments to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) bill, it can now extend the reach of its "tentacles" into any public authority, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said yesterday.
"Any institution that the Government controls, whether directly or indirectly, once taxpayers are financing that entity, that is a public authority to the purpose of the (FIU)," he said.
He also said it was felt that the FIU should not adopt a restrictive approach to what law enforcement agencies can assist it in investigating suspicious activity in the country.
Ramlogan was speaking yesterday as the Parliament, which reconvened after a vacation to debate the Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago and Anti-Terrorism Bill 2012.
The passing of the bill was necessary to improve this country's compliance with the recommendations of the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which will be sending a team to visit this country to review that compliance later this month.
Ramlogan noted that they also "tid(ied) up" the language of the bill and the FIU will now have separate registers for non-regulated financial institutions and listed businesses, which would improve administrative efficiency. He said that this would assist with FATF compliance.
He noted one of the major recommendations by FATF was to have the FIU up and running and reported that the post of director and deputy director had been filled and other positions were being advertised.
Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert, however, said Government was "scrambling" to meet the FATF deadline.
He said that the FATF has been issuing bulletins June 2010 calling on Government to implement procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets, implement adequate procedures for the confiscation of funds as it related to money laundering and establish a fully operational and effectively functioning FIU . He said in follow up bulletins in February 2011 and June 2011 the FATF pointed out the same deficiencies.
"So what is this Government doing all this time? I would love to know," he said.
He noted that the deficiencies were once again pointed out in a February 2012 bulletin and Government has failed and currently this country was listed on the FATF website as one of the jurisdictions "with strategic deficiencies".
He noted that in two years there were seven people working at the FIU and they were advertising for the other positions.
"That is efficiency," he said sarcastically.
Imbert placed the majority of the blame on the Finance Ministry, formerly headed by Winston Dookeran, for failing to ensure administrative services were in place and recruitment of officers for the FIU. He chided Government, saying that if a comprehensive review had been done in September 2010 as required they could have been compliant by 2010 or 2011 and would not have to be "dragged out" in the middle of vacation.
National Security Minister Jack Warner, however, said that the former administration scrambled to pass two money laundering bills and the efforts of the current administration brought this country from the brink of being blacklisted by the FATF to being grey listed.
The bill was later passed with unanimous support.