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State Agencies hold high-level talks on money laundering

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Several state agencies are in high-level discussions aimed at further narrowing the space in which money launderers operate.

SEARCHLIGHT is reliably informed that plans are afoot to have a closer collaboration between agencies like the Inland Revenue Department and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).{{more}}

“Discussions with key agencies are ongoing,” is all that the Comptroller of Inland Revenue, Kelvin Pompey, would say when asked by SEARCHLIGHT.

But a well placed source told SEARCHLIGHT that law enforcement agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to clamp down on the drug dealers because more and more of them are making greater efforts to hide the proceeds of their devious trade in businesses.

“They are trying harder to look legitimate,” our source said.

According to our source, however, many of these ‘front businesses’, which are usually cash intensive enterprises, do not file tax returns.

“They can’t give account for their monies, if they are forced to,” our source said.

According to this source, entertainment enterprises, vehicle rental companies, boutiques, and similar businesses head the list of prime targets for money laundering.

SEARCHLIGHT’s informant suggested that a stricter policing of the tax laws could very well expose these “front businesses” for what they are, because all things being equal, they will not be able to account for the cash or assets that they have.

“All businesses should be made to file tax returns and have all their records,” our source insists.

When SEARCHLIGHT pushed Pompey on this, however, he noted that his department’s auditors are currently undergoing training to more efficiently perform their duties.

He, however, noted that the Inland Revenue Department does not have a money laundering investigation mandate.

Pompey said that that his department’s job is to enforce the tax laws; saying that even if a business’s deposits don’t match its sales, all that could be done is that the business is charged and the excess deposit is considered as sales and taxed.

Another equally well placed SEARCHLIGHT source, who for security reasons did not wish to be identified, said that unless legislation is introduced to ensure that monetary transactions above a certain amount are done by cheque, the peddlers of death will continue to slip the noose of the law.

He explained that while financial institutions have strict depositing guidelines under the money laundering act, questionable persons can still walk into car dealerships, furniture and appliance stores, among others and pay huge sums of cash for items, no questions asked.

“If a man can walk into a car dealership with a bag of money and purchase a car, he still has room to operate,” our source said.

He suggested that there may be an underlined, unspoken feeling that while the economy is growing, we can only as a country just take token steps to control the drug trade, because the economy depends on dirty money to a large extent.

One sales representative in an appliance store related an example of what our source highlighted.

“An old woman walked into the store, with over $8,000 in cash, and bought all that she wanted. She didn’t hide the fact that she got the money from her grandson, who works in the hills (cultivates marijuana)”, the sales representative told SEARCHLIGHT.

According to SEARCHLIGHT sources, more forceful legislative changes will force drug dealers to take more risks when working their money.

On June 18th, a Bermudan sailor and a Trinidadian seaman will answer charges of “bringing into St Vincent and the Grenadines US$1.6 million which is wholly or partly the proceeds of criminal activities” and “bringing the concealed money into the country, which is the part or whole of the proceeds of someone else’s criminal conduct”.

They were arrested on Saturday April 5 at Calliaqua. A local businessman was also questioned by police, but was released. Investigations are continuing.

Commissioner of Police Keith Miller said that he is hoping that the seizure of the money will lead the police into a minefield and open a “can of worms.”

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