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Live free with honest living rather than living extravagantly from the proceeds of crime.

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Contributed by the Financial Intelligence Unit

Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing are nefarious crimes that have the potential of causing an upsurge in negative social ills, thereby interrupting the peaceful climate of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines by acts of violence and wanton disregard for the law.{{more}}

Terrorist financing is the use of funds to encourage, plan, assist or engage in acts of terrorism, where the primary motivation is not financial gain. Money laundering is any act or attempted act to disguise the source of money or assets derived from criminal activities which would include illegal arms trafficking, drug trafficking, theft, robbery, bribery, fraud, gambling, smuggling, amongst others. In order to facilitate their activities, both money launders and terrorist financers depend heavily on financing. It is important to them that these funds go unrecognized by law enforcement. Therefore, they tend to operate secretly.

“One man’s utopia is another’s hell.” Without effective implementation and enforcement of the laws in place to regulate specific activities, these criminals could continue to live their lives extravagantly by successfully laundering their proceeds; whilst the progress of law abiding citizens could continue to be stifled due to the fact that these launderers undermine the integrity of financial markets and the legitimate private sector, there is also loss of revenue, distortion of the economy and increase in criminal activities which cause a strain on social infrastructure.

The core of our economic survival depends on a stable economic environment. As a nation strong in the services industry and reliant on a positive public image as key to the expansion of our economy, the increase in the negative scourges of our society can only hinder our prospects.

More significantly, it is our future that will negatively be impacted by an upsurge in negative ills. Money laundering and terrorist financing have grave repercussions for not only the country’s future in general but also for the security of every citizen thereof.

With these economic crimes, people are often less directly aggrieved because the gravity of the crime is not always immediately felt or noticed. These are not victimless crimes. However, potential witnesses often have little to say. This limits sources of information that may aid in combating these crimes. One thing is clear: if we continue to be silent and reluctant to take firm action against these crimes, we may experience cataclysmic failure as is currently being experienced in some “first world nations”, with concomitant negative effects on our own financial systems. Moreover, our economic future will also be under threat, with the rising insecurities associated with increased crime and other negative social and economic negative influences.

Crime affects everyone, whether rich or poor, and we may start projecting all the reasons why a country may change radically from a beautiful friendly place to one riddled with crime. All such postulations will not solve the problem, should we let go of the reigns of law and order and allow criminals to operate with impunity. As a nation, we must embrace the view that we must be tough on crime and the causes of crime. This can only be achieved where all stakeholders, whether financial institutions, other regulated businesses under the Proceeds of Crime and Money Laundering (Prevention) Act or you the citizenry of this blessed country, make a concerted effort to detect, deter, and report such criminal activities. Further, we must prosecute those who engage in criminal acts, launder their ill gotten gains, facilitate or assist criminals in laundering their criminal proceeds. Those who launder criminal proceeds are equally guilty as those who engage in the underlying criminal activity.

Hence the reason the Financial Intelligence Unit is making you aware of the threats posed by these nefarious elements and the crimes in which they engage. We must ensure that our country’s reputation that we have built over the past years of being a safe place for investment remains intact. We cannot afford to allow the so obvious threats of money launderers and terrorist financers to go unheeded. Let’s work together to combat these crimes.

For the year 2009, we encourage all our entire citizenry to choose to live free with honest living instead of choosing to live extravagantly from the proceeds of crime.

Money laundering, terrorist financing and criminal activities are scourges that threaten the security of our democratic civilization and we must work together as a people to send a clear message to those who are minded to operate outside the scope of the law that crime does not pay. Criminals have no legal claim to properties derived from criminal conduct. We will be tough on crime by ensuring that proportionate, dissuasive and effective penalties are imposed against such criminals by sending them to prison and hitting them where it hurts hardest, that is, in their pockets, by seizing, forfeiting and confiscating any benefit derived from criminal conduct.

It must be emphasized that a nation does not change its ideals to suit those who refuse to conform. On the contrary, it is those who refuse to conform who must change their ways in order to meet the ideals of the nation.

Have a bright and prosperous New Year!