SVG Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) celebrates 17 years
Establishment of the Department for the Supervision of Non-Regulated Service Providers (NRSPS)
It augurs well for the St Vincent and the Grenadines Financial Intelligence Unit (SVGFIU) in commemorating its 17th anniversary to reflect on its journey including its accomplishments and challenges, having commenced operations on May 6, 2002.
The SVGFIU, endorsed by international and regional bodies as a Centre of Excellence, is tasked with the responsibility, as the national centralised agency in accordance with the Financial Intelligence Unit Act No. 38 of 2001, to receive and analyse Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs).
The mission of the SVGFIU is to contribute to the economic and social stability of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines by safeguarding its financial system from abuse; by deterring the incidents of money laundering, terrorist financing and other serious crimes through the analysis of SARs, the adoption of best practices, implementation of Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) measures, increasing public awareness, working with financial institutions, regulated entities, law enforcement agencies and regulatory authorities locally, regionally and internationally, with the aim of taking the profit out of crime.
This hybrid unit consists of a Director along with Administrative, Legal, Analytical, Investigative and Supervisory Departments. Establishment OF THE department for the supervision of NON-REGULATED service providers (NRSPS) Pursuant to Regulation 36 (b) of the AMLTF Regulations the SVGFIU is designated as the supervisory authority of NRSPs which comprises of real estate agents, casinos, car dealers, jewellers, lawyers, notaries, accountants and auditors who engage in the buying and selling of real estate, management of client money, securities or savings and the creation and management of companies, legal persons or arrangements. In light of this, in August 2018, the Supervisory Department for NRSPs was established.
Objectives and Functions of the SVGFIU as Supervisory Authority for NRSPs The objectives and functions of the Supervisory Authority include the registration of NRSPs, monitoring the compliance of the NRSPs with their AML/CFT obligations under the relevant legislation and taking appropriate enforcement action against the NRSPs for breaches of, or non-compliance with, their AML/CFT obligations (section 152 of POCA).
Registration of NRSPs The NRSPs are prohibited from carrying out any type of relevant business within Saint Vincent and the Grenadines unless registered (section 155(1) of the POCA). The Registration of NRSPs is scheduled to commence subsequent to the passage of the Non-Regulated Service Providers Regulations, 2019, which is drafted specifically for NRSPs and seeks to provide guidance, inter alia, on the registration process.
AML/CFT Obligations of NRSPs It is the responsibility of the SVGFIU to supervise the NRSPs in relation to their AML/CFT obligations which include, but not limited to, the appointment of a Compliance /Reporting Officer, the establishment of internal controls, the development of a compliance programme, record keeping, the adoption of a Risk Based Approach, suspicious activity reporting, training and staff awareness and the submission of annual and quarterly reports.
Enforcement Actions The SVGFIU may take appropriate enforcement action against NRSPs for breaches of, or non-compliance with, their AML/CFT Obligations (section 152(2)(b) of POCA). However, the Supervisory Authority must ensure that the enforcement action imposed is effective, proportionate and dissuasive (section 152(4) of POCA). Enforcement actions include, but are not limited to, warning letters, remedial actions, directives, administrative penalties and criminal sanctions.
The way forward The SVGFIU was delegated the responsibility of lead agency by the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee (NAMLC) to conduct the National Risk Assessment (NRA) of the money laundering and terrorist financing vulnerabilities and threats of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In undertaking this task, various sectors are assessed to identify the threats and vulnerabilities that exist within that particular industry and to determine the overall threat and vulnerability of the country on a whole. This information is vital for the development of a resilient National Action Plan to mitigate the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing and proliferation within Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The establishment of the supervisory department for NRSPs is an integral component in ensuring that there is a robust AML/CFT framework within the NRSP sector, and furthermore, for attaining a rating of compliant in the upcoming Mutual Evaluation of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ AML/CFT regime scheduled for 2021.
In light of the foregoing, it is important that the SVGFIU continues to collaborate with citizens, financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, and other relevant stakeholders in mitigating the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing within Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, failing which, the ramifications are far-reaching regionally and internationally.