May 12, 2023
Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) comes of age

The age of twenty-one is considered a rite of passage for many cultures where a celebration is a must. And the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) attained that rite of passage on May 6, when it marked 21 years of existence. The FIU therefore thought it fitting to celebrate this milestone with great honour as it strengthens its public-private partnerships (PPP).

In a release, the FIU said it continues to traverse the opportunities and challenges of being the lead agency in the fight against disrupting money laundering (ML), and terrorist financing (TF) in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Due to globalisation and advances in technology financial crime is no respecter of borders, it pointed out.

Therefore, the FIU recognized from inception that for them to be most effective as an FIU there needed to be collaboration with the public and private sector. PPP involves the sharing of information and knowledge about existing ML/TF typologies, identifying new and emerging risks, channelling the exchange of financial intelligence between operational authorities and reporting entities and increasing communication between the involved sectors. The purpose of public-private information sharing is to improve the effectiveness of customer due diligence, assist law enforcement agencies in their criminal investigations into relevant offences and to protect the financial system by taking the profit out of crime. Information sharing is more efficient through the use of the FIU’s AMLive platform which is an online based interface that facilitates the ease of transmission of information from the private sector and public sector.

Over the last year, the FIU has provided AML/CFT training to over 650 participants from the private sector, namely: financial institutions, the Non-Regulated Service Providers (NRSPs) and Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs). In March 2023, SVG was assessed in its 4th Round of Mutual Evaluations (MEV) by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) assessment team where the assessors interviewed private and public sector representatives and reviewed materials submitted on policies and practices. This exercise is a multi-year, peer-review process that assesses the strength of the jurisdiction’s AML/CFT framework by analysing its technical compliance with and effective implementation of the FATF Standards. The fruit of the MEV is the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER), which will be presented in November this year.

It is an immensely influential document that sets out the findings of the assessment, the FIU release notes.

It augers well for SVG that through inter-agency collaboration there is now a Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) Cash Seizure Policy developed by the FIU and RSVGPF and the FIU Cash Forfeiture Handbook which was developed by FIU and the Regional Security System-Asset Recovery (RSS-ARU) and published in December 2022 for law enforcement and criminal justice practitioners on seizure, detention and forfeiture of cash in SVG under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). Additionally, there are several Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between relevant governmental agencies and the FIU to foster cooperation and efficiency. In accordance with the FATF recommendations, the sharing of information is key to promoting financial transparency and protecting the integrity of the financial system. It provides financial institutions and relevant competent authorities with the intelligence and data necessary to prevent and combat ML and TF.

When public and private authorities aim to leverage their respective strengths and resources to achieve the common goal of combatting financial crimes, it helps to improve the detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of illicit financial flows.

This hybrid FIU’s most recently established Department has made significant strides too, in strengthening PPP. Intrinsic to the role of the Supervisory Department, in its efforts to combat the intent, execution and evolution of financial crimes, within the last year, it has committed to and stewarded PPP by extending its reach of supervision, facilitating several training workshops and consultation forums and advancing its entity-level and sectoral-level risk assessment. This was accomplished through information-sharing mechanisms and commencing the conduct of on-site compliance examinations for its supervised entities. PPPs are not without operational challenges. However, the Supervisory Department commits to utilising its expertise and communicating shared risks and responsibilities to cultivate and strengthen its PPP.

Certainly, there is no-one size fits all approach for combatting financial crime, but it requires commitment and resources, including priority and expertise from public and private partners.

Strengthening the PPP is crucial in the combating ML/TF. The FIU has made tremendous advancements over the last 21 years in preventing SVG’s financial systems from being misused for these purposes. The FIU salutes the cooperation among relevant public and private stakeholders over the years and endeavours to strengthen the collaboration for years to come!