May 13, 2005
FIU celebrates third year

FRIDAY, May 6, 2005, marked the 3rd year of operation of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), a governmental statutory body established pursuant to the Financial Intelligence Unit Act, No. 39 of 2001, as the national centralized agency, for the collection analysis and dissemination of suspicious activity information relevant to money laundering to the relevant law enforcement authorities, both in and out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Since its inauguration in 2001, the responsibilities of the FIU have steadily grown, particularly in the context of the suppression of terrorist financing.{{more}}

The mandate of the FIU is to take the profit out of crime by making the financial environment hostile to criminals who engage in illegal activities for financial gain. To this end, the Proceeds of Crime and Money Laundering Prevention Act No. 39 of 2001 sets out the obligation of the gatekeepers, that is, Financial Institutions and other relevant businesses to report suspicious activities, where transactions are conducted and suspicions related to money laundering cannot be eliminated. The FIU evaluates all suspicious activity reports it receives, analyzes them in conjunction with additional information, and determines whether a suspicion of money laundering, predicate offences of money laundering, or other crime is present or can be substantiated. If the review confirms the suspicion, a further report is forwarded to the prosecutorial authorities.

The objects of these activities are to detect, deter and prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, to facilitate a stable financial sector by reducing the integration and inflow of illegally obtained monies and to remove the motive for committing financial crimes and ultimately a reduction in crime, to enhance national and international security by making it difficult for terrorist and other subversive groups to obtain and transfer funds for such activities.

The FIU has collaborated with all branches of law enforcement, in particular the Commissioner of Police, the Narcotics Squad and the Customs and Excise Department. As a result of information received by the FIU, investigations have been conducted which resulted in successful prosecutions. The FIU has continued its training and awareness raising programmes with law enforcement agencies on the role and functions of the FIU in order to enhance mutual cooperation and hence to promote effective proactive financial investigations by the FIU, as these agencies play an integral part in investigating predicate offences and securing convictions. Similarly, the FIU has continued in its efforts to establish a working relationship with the financial institutions and other relevant businesses and to sensitize the same on their obligations to implement a proper compliance regime in accordance with the Proceeds of Crime and Money Laundering (Prevention) Act, by holding training and awareness sessions with these entities. The FIU has also been working closely with the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee (NAMLC) and the International Financial Services Authority (IFSA) to implement a sound anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist regime in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We have also strengthened our investigative capabilities by embracing the use of technology including proactive intelligence software and other computer based investigative tools and enhancing our staffs’ competencies to effectively interact with such software.

In the fight against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, Bilateral regional and international co-operation is essential to the work of the FIU, therefore the FIU has been developing close working relationships and exchanging appropriate information with regional and international FIUs and other law enforcement agencies. The FIU has been accepted as a member of the Egmont Group of FIUs after being in operation for only one year. The Egmont Group is an international network of the world’s leading FIUs, which is focused on the efficient exchange of intelligence.

The FIU has been highly commended by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), the UN Global Programme against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing. The Caribbean Anti-Money Laundering Programme (CALP) and other regional FIUs and FINTRAC on its efforts in the fight against the scourge of money laundering and terrorist financing. In 2004 CFATF commended the local FIU stating that “The St. Vincent and the Grenadines FIU has developed at an impressive rate and should be commended for its efforts and achievements”. Further tribute was paid by to the local FIU by CALP in August 2004 when it hailed the local FIU as the leading FIU in the Caribbean and St. Vincent’s FIU was selected as a model FIU to provide guidance to Guyana in setting up its own FIU in August of 2004.

The FIU looks forward to building on its achievements both locally and internationally and will be guided by its Strategic Plan for the year. Money laundering and terrorist financing are two scourges that will not be stamped out in the immediate future. Therefore the work of the FIU, which is to make the environment hostile for money launderers and terrorist financiers, is an ongoing mission. Our efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing can only be successful if all the relevant stakeholders know their roles and play their part.

The FIU plans to continue its awareness and sensitization programmes with the financial sector, other relevant businesses, law enforcement, all stakeholders and the general public. Regional and International cooperation will be enhanced so that the reach on criminals, crime and the proceeds of crime are not limited by geography, ongoing collection and analysis of suspicious activity reports; and ongoing investigations with a view to obtaining successful money laundering convictions and or confiscation/forfeiture of assets derived from criminal or intended for use in criminal conduct.

In the upcoming months the FIU will explore some of the matters raised herein in more details via the print and other media.