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FIU staff to be increased by 10

By ANDRE BAGOO Thursday, August 21 2014

CABINET has approved an increase in the staff of the Financial Intelligence Unit by ten, Minister of Finance and the Economy, Larry Howai, revealed yesterday as the Senate passed legislation designed to make it easier for the State to pursue money-launderers.

The legislation was passed after two days of sittings in the Senate, during the vacation period. In wrapping-up debate of the reforms – involving amendment of the Financial Intelligence Unit; the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act – Howai stated that the country was not currently at risk of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force, the G7 entity which rates nations on measures to combat money-laundering.

“Concerns have been raised as to whether this had to be rushed because we were to be blacklisted,” Howai said. “I may have been guilty of contributing to that thinking.”

He said he was of the view the legislation had to be brought as soon as possible, given a packed legislative agenda – involving four bills and the Budget – before year’s end.

Howai thanked Senators for sitting for a second straight day during the vacation period to pass the measures. “I appreciate the sacrifice of time you have made,” he said. “I really appreciate this because the bill is a really important bill, and it really will move things forward a lot.”

On the FIU, Howai said Cabinet has approved, “another ten persons to help strengthen the FIU.” He did not give specifics, but said the staff will include, “compliance and legal staff to bolster the capacity of the institution.” He further stated, “training has also focused on gang investigations.”

The Senate sat on Tuesday from 11am to 10pm, then on Wednesday from 1.30pm to about 7pm.

During Committee Stage of the legislation, Howai noted the free-standing offence of money- laundering will apply to all offences.

However the legislation will remove the requirement that a conviction is recorded in the predicate offence. There was much sparring over a schedule relating to the seizure of assets, a narrower power.

Government Whip in the Senate said the Cabinet would consider any further amendment to allow sharing of information with the FIU, and the Integrity Commission, and Police Complaints Authority, a change suggested by Independent Senator, Helen Drayton.

“I can see the merit in the proposal, but it requires thought and consideration,” Singh said. However, Independent Senator Dhanayshar Mahabir objected to the proposal citing concerns about confidentiality of matters at the Integrity Commission.

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