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FIU – celebrating 15 years of accomplishments

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Overview

The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Act, Chapter 171 of the Revised Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2009, as amended by Act No. 7 of 2013, established the FIU as the centralized agency responsible for receiving, analysing, obtaining and disseminating information which relates to the proceeds of offences created under the Proceeds of Crime Act, No. 38 of 2013 (POCA) and the Anti-Terrorist Financing and Proliferation Act, No.14 of 2015. The FIU functions as a hybrid unit, focused on executing its duties as the centralized agency for handling Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) (administrative) and also prosecuting Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (ML/TF) and their predicate crimes (investigative).

The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has implemented foundational laws and regulations which further the mission and aims at deterring, detecting, preventing and prosecuting money laundering, terrorism and terrorist financing and other serious crimes and confiscating the profits of crime. These include, but are not limited to, the Proceeds of Crime Act, No. 38 of 2013, Exchange of Information Act, Cap 146 of the Revised laws of 2009, Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, No.27 of 2011, Anti-Terrorist Financing and Proliferation Act, No. 14 of 2015, Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Regulations No. 20 of 2014 and Confiscation in the Magistrate’s Court Regulations, No. 22 of 2015.

The FIU has a complement of skilled professionals and administrative staff, who work arduously in achieving its mission and vision. The personnel comprise Financial Investigators (seconded Police Officers), Legal Officers, Analysts and Administrative staff. This constitution of professionals has made incredible strides in accomplishing the objectives of a hybrid financial intelligence unit.

The functions of the FIU have extended tremendously outside the scope of the Financial Intelligence Unit Act, as the FIU is presently tasked with being the lead agency for all Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (AML/CTF) compliance matters, court appearances on behalf of the Attorney-General for all civil applications pursuant to the POCA and the supervision of all Non- Regulated Service Providers (car dealers, real estate agents, independent legal professionals, casinos and accountants).

Constraints and Challenges

Public Perception

Despite being in existence for 15 years, the work of the FIU is often misunderstood, particularly as it relates to the Detention of Cash and Forfeiture of Cash Applications. The work is often seen in a negative light and perceived as a significant contribution to the ‘hard economic times’ being experienced. The connection between serious crimes, particularly drug trafficking, and economic stability is not often made. As a result, persons are not always eager to help, as they appear to not understand the consequences of money laundering and its predicate crimes on the economy.

Money laundering is a crime that is built on a crime. It is the conversion, disguising and transferring of the proceeds of crime through the financial system to give it the appearance of legitimacy. In SVG, it is a well-established fact that drug-trafficking, whether cannabis or cocaine, is the primary predicate crime to money laundering. These crimes act as a precursor to other crimes, such as murder and the trafficking of illegal weapons. Consequently, we are left with fatherless children, single parent families and a significant loss to our youthful population. The work of the FIU is to avoid the said consequences by hitting the criminal where he feels it most – his pockets!

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