At least six institutions operating in the island’s financial sector have been flagged by the Financial Investigations Division (FID), as they are not in compliance with the law and their operations “may be used to facilitate money laundering”.
According to FID’s principal director, Keith Darien, “… We believe that a couple of these (financial) institutions will be prosecuted, or they will have to address from a standpoint of the fixed penalty regime, which was included in the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) in November 2019.”
Despite the perceived actions of these six unnamed entities, Darien said there was “generally” a high level of compliance among financial institutions to provisions of POCA.
“Currently, we are experiencing a compliance rate of… over 90 per cent. Year to date, we have received over 50,000 suspicious transactions reports and large cash reports from these entities,” he disclosed.
Darien was addressing a FID press conference held in observance of National Anti-Money Laundering Day.
In his performance report detailing the operational activities of the FID, the principal director revealed that between January and October 2021, the division concluded investigations into 17 asset-recovery matters involving criminal benefits or assets, with accumulated value of J$1.185 billion and just over US$182,000.
This, he said, compares with 13 cases that were completed in 2020, with assets or benefits amounting to J$300 billion and US$1.54 million.
“On an annualised basis, there has been an increase of over 50 per cent in the number of investigations conducted into asset-recovery and 130 per cent increase in the value of criminal assets or benefits identified, which are subject to confiscation or forfeiture order,” explained Darien.
He added: “Of the 17 cases completed this far in 2021, eight involved persons who were convicted for drug trafficking activities and four for lottery scamming activities.”
Meanwhile, Darien noted that the FID has identified assets, including real estate, motor vehicles, and bank accounts, valued at over J$300 million and about US$54,000, which it will pursue to satisfy the formal orders as they are obtained from the Supreme Court.
“Five formal orders were granted by the court in 2021, amounting to over J$33 million,” he pointed out.
“Since the beginning of the year, the divison has restrained assets in excess of J$334.5 million in furtherance of money laundering and asset recovery investigations. These include five houses, six motor vehicles and five bank accounts,” the principal director continued.
Currently, the division has forfeited assets being managed with a value of J$1.273 billion, noted Darien.
“These have been finalized by the court and recovery/forfeiture orders have been obtained.
“They include 44 real estates valued over J$1 billion; 19 motor vehicles valued at approximately $10 million; 19 banks accounts containing $245.7 million; and other assets like jewelry, brand name bags and so on, valued at $2 million,” he outlined.
“We are about to place some of these assets, (including) real estate, in particular, on the market, so that we can dispose of them in order for the country to make better use of the funds derived from criminal assets,” Darien divulged.
The operational activities of the FID since the commencement of the year, he suggested, reflects the magnitude of the financial crimes confronting the country and the tangible efforts made by the division in combating the problem.
October 30, 2021, published on Loop News