TT off blacklist
By LARA PICKFORD-GORDON Saturday, October 20 2012
THIS COUNTRY has been removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of countries with strategic Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combatting Financing of Terrorism (CFT) deficiencies.
“The FATF has recognised that significant progress has been made,” Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday in a statement in the House of Representatives at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre in Port-of-Spain.
Her news came after a plenary meeting of FATF officials in Paris yesterday. The FATF is an international agency which sets standards and promotes effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other threats to the international financial system.
Persad-Bissessar recalled the “dark and gloomy” picture painted by the Opposition PNM about TT being blacklisted, investors losing confidence and TT becoming a haven for money launderers and terrorists. She said, “right thinking citizens were not misled by the dark and gloomy picture.”
Persad-Bissessar said when the PP took office, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) was not operational, defective legislative framework and a private practice attorney and consultant to office of the AG was appointed to act as interim director. She said conflict of interest was an issue government had to look at. At the time TT was on the “brink of being blacklisted.”
Persad-Bissessar provided an overview of the progress made to have TT removed from the list of countries with deficiencies after the FATF report of February 2010 identified TT publicly as a country with strategic AML, CFT deficiencies. She said, “the public identification came as a result of a mutual evaluation conducted where TT was rated as partially compliant or non compliant in 15 of 16 core recommendation of FATF.”
Among the actions taken: the appointment of a national AML/CFT Committee comprising senior Cabinet ministers and high level technocrats, a comprehensive overview of legislation and amendments. Persad-Bissessar said five pieces of essential legislation came in 2011 and a sixth this year.
At a meeting with Caribbean FATF officials TT’s progress was discussed. Persad-Bissessar said she reinforced the Government’s commitment to further compliance with international standards set by FATF and in June this year the FATF agreed that TT had made significant progress in rectifying its AML/CFT deficiencies. Persad-Bissessar said FATF conducted an onsite visit August 28-29 to ensure that the progress reported by technocrats at the FATF Plenaries had in fact been made and were sustainable. They met with with senior public and private groups responsible for implementing the AML/CFT regime.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said while he is happy to hear TT was removed from the FATF list he did not think the PM had to interrupt yesterday’s debate proceedings to make this announcement.
“So desperate is the Government for good news to change the national agenda that the Prime Minister stretched this thing out in a most boring and ridiculous statement,” Rowley said.
He said that under the previous PNM administration, interim arrangements were made including the appointment of an interim FIU director. It was “a work in progress.”
Rowley said legislation the PM spoke of were in draft and preparation phase when the People’s Partnership took office. Rowley referred to the FATF report of June this year, which he said, indicated TT had not kept certain commitments.
Rowley said that he thought the PM was going to announce that the FIU had found some, “big fishes”.