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Help put brakes on Laundering!

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13.JUNE.08

EDITOR: The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines deserves the fullest support from the people in this country in its determined fight against money-laundering and drug trafficking. Recent news of the seizure of a yacht with a reported US$41.8 million in cash aboard is encouraging indeed.{{more}} And the further news last week that properties, yachts, vehicles, and bank accounts of a Vincentian national have been “frozen” by an order of the High Court, under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, indicates that this Government means business. Undoubtedly, it is acting most courageously and nobly.

Money-laundering, i.e the cleaning of dirty money through ostensibly legitimate channels, is very harmful to any civilised nation. It is a product of criminal activity and fuels further dangerous criminal conduct, including violence. Money-laundering, too, undermines the legitimacy and soundness of our banking and financial system, thus shaking to the core our economy. Money-laundering is the oxygen in the financing of terrorism. Money-laundering is a threat to democracy and freedom, since the money-launderers invariably seek to exercise unlawful power either directly or indirectly through political parties, NGOs, and governments.

It is absolutely clear that the former NDP administration was soft on money-laundering. It failed to pass strong laws against money-laundering; it encouraged dubious off-shore banks and insurance companies; it welcomed close to its bosom foreigners who were widely reputed to be money-launderers; it failed to regulate properly the off-shore sector and opted for “secrecy” laws and practices. In the process, the former NDP government led us to a very harmful black-listing of our financial jurisdiction which shook our state-owned National Commercial Bank to its very foundations.

Swiftly upon coming to office, the ULP government moved against money-laundering and the money-launderers. It reformed the off-shore laws and practices which paved the way for the removal of “the blacklist”. It secured the passage of a very tough Proceeds of Crime and Money-Laundering Prevention Act; it set up an excellent Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU); it closed down most off-shore banks (there were 40, now there are seven) and registered only one in seven years; it caused to be removed from our jurisdiction some persons suspected of money-laundering; and it has moved aggressively against drug trafficking.

In the process, the Prime Minister has incurred the wrath of several powerful individuals who are financing the on-going efforts to remove him and his government from office. Indeed, some persons with legitimate “front” businesses are engaged in this exercise against Ralph and the ULP since these businesses are involved in helping to clear dirty money. And most disturbing of all, they are planning to eliminate the Prime Minister physically.

In this most courageous battle, the Prime Minister takes enormous personal risks. Evidently, he has chosen the preferred path of a strenuous life rather than one of ignoble ease. He and his government deserve the support of all right-thinking Vincentians in this matter. I am in their corner on this.

Joseph Anderson

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