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Fighting against money laundering

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23.FEB.07

Editor,Before the ULP government came to office on March 29, 2001, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was seen internationally as a haven for money-launderers. As a result of this, SVG was put on a black-list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international body tasked with the responsibility of monitoring the battle against money-laundering and the illicit use of the proceeds of crime. This black-listing affected negatively the financial system of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Investment became a risky business here; and the state-owned National Commercial Bank was put under real pressure with the severing of corresponding banking relations. Meanwhile, the almost 40 off-shore banks in SVG prospered. Many facilitated money-laundering.{{more}} The then ruling NDP was very close to many of these off-shore bankers.

Upon taking office, the ULP government under the distinguished leadership of our Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, commenced several steps to cleanse the jurisdiction of money-laundering and the illicit use of the proceeds of crime. By June 2003, SVG was taken off the black-list; clean investment from overseas rose; and our state-owned bank began to prosper.

The measures taken by the ULP administration include:

1. The passage of a comprehensive and tough Proceeds of Crime and Money-Laundering Prevention Act in November 2001.

2. The passage of the Financial Intelligence Unit Act in early 2002.

3. The setting-up of a well-staffed and professionally-run Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) which became a model institution in the Caribbean and which was swiftly elevated into the elite group of FIU’s internationally, known as the Egmont Group.

4. The establishment of comprehensive links with other FIU’s internationally and intelligence-gathering agencies overseas.

5. The strengthening of Customs and Excise, especially regarding financial intelligence.

6. The strengthening of the Police Force especially on matters of financial intelligence.

7. The close working of the FIU with the beefed-up Narcotics Squad and the new entity known as the Rapid Response Unit especially regarding drug trafficking and related crimes.

8. The many-sided improvements in the Judiciary and the Magistracy.

9. The building of capacity in the Office of the DPP especially to deal with money-laundering.

10. The reduction from 40 to ten, the number of off-shore banks.

11. The efficacious functioning of an inter-departmental body known as the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee (NAMLC).

12. Focussed political leadership against money-laundering.

Through these efforts, the space has been narrowed for money-launderers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This is recognized in and out of SVG. Indeed, one person who was recently jailed for a money-laundering offence was heard to remark as he was led away to prison as follows:

“This is because of that stupid Act, this law stupid ——-it is because of Ralph that we get that Act; this law wouldn’t be so in NDP days.”

Money-launderers, including those who do so through drug trafficking and other crimes are getting really worried. They are getting desperate, too. And among other things, they are seeking alliances with persons close to the political opposition in SVG, and their political friends overseas. The drug traffickers know that seizing their money and assets is what truly hurts them.

The ULP administration is resolved to give the money-launderers and drug traffickers no space.

Sincerely yours,

Hans King

Press Secretary to the Prime Minister

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