AG and Imbert clash on FIU Bill
By Clint Chan Tack Saturday, August 18 2012
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Govt Chief Whip, Roodal Moonilal, right, and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan took time out to briefly consult in Parliament yesterday....
ATTORNEY General (AG) Anand Ramlogan and Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert yesterday crossed swords over the intent of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago and Anti-Terrorism) Bill 2012, and why Government was arguably bringing the legislation to Parliament at this time.
In opening debate on the bill in the House of Representatives, Ramlogan said it would ensure this country would not be blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and it would strengthen the Financial Intelligence Unit’s (FIU) ability to combat money-laundering and terrorist financing.
However, Imbert said Government was “scrambling” to prevent TT from being blacklisted. He warned the country could be blacklisted if Government fails to act on FATF’s recommendation to deal with “politically exposed persons” who may be involved in white collar crimes.
In making this argument, Imbert questioned whether a sum of $25,000 was wire transferred from a bank account in Qatar to the account of a politician in TT.
Saying TT received encouraging news from the last FATF plenary in Rome in June, Ramlogan was confident the FATF team which will visit TT at the end of this month will be satisfied with its efforts to comply with FATF recommendations. “It is my hope and my expectation that TT will achieve a successful rating from FATF that will see us being removed altogether from the possible threat of being blacklisted, and from the grey list,” he said.
Stating the bill’s purpose was to enhance the FIU’s ability to deal with money laundering and terrorist financing, Ramlogan disclosed, “FIU will now have the power to direct, or instruct the financial institution to suspend for five weeks the processing of a transaction which it suspects maybe related to the financing of terrorism or money laundering.”
He said the legislation would be amended to allow the FIU to obtain cooperation from public authorities such as government ministries, the Tobago House of Assembly and regional health authorities in its investigation of suspicious financial transactions.
Imbert claimed the imminent FATF visit had caught Government “with its pants down.” He said Government had failed to act on FATF recommendations about treating with “politically exposed persons.” Saying Government had this information since July, Imbert declared: “They are issuing a warning with respect to suspicious financial transactions conducted by politically exposed persons, and you can bet your bottom dollar they are going to make a regulation about that.”
“I am warning this Government. Do what you have to do with respect to suspicious transactions to politically exposed persons,” he said.
Indicating FATF insist that politically exposed persons receive “an appropriate level of scrutiny,”
Imbert said it was not unheard of “for a politically exposed person to enter a financial institution and deposit significant amounts of suspicious money.” Saying corrupt exposed persons “will take great pains to disguise the identity and source of funds in order to place corrupt money in the financial system.”
Imbert warned Government that if it does not ensure an effective scheme is in place to deal with this, “they (FATF) are going to blacklist us.”
Imbert also condemned former finance minister Winston Dookeran for failing to ensure “proper administrative systems had been in place in the financial institutions.” Reiterating TT has been either partially, or non-compliant with FATF recommendations, Imbert reminded MPs: “We are
in the jurisdiction with strategic deficiencies.”