Wednesday, February 24, 2010

TT Making Progress Against Money Launderers

As you may have noticed on Monday, my friends, the Trinidad Guardian erroneously reported Trinidad and Tobago as somehow part of a "blacklist" of terror-financing states. But did you happen to read this dire news in any of the other dailies? Or an internationally respected publication like the New York Times or London Times?
Of course not, because it isn’t true. A review of the facts reveals that Trinidad and Tobago is continuing to improve in our efforts to comply with global financing standards.
This one slipped through the editorial process, and the Guardian owes an explanation for the error. The misleading story ran with no by-line – an inconvenience for truth-seekers, but a hedge for hasty journalists and authors. In the story, the anonymous author builds the report around a recent report by the international Financial Action Task Force.
The Financial Action Task Force is a well-regarded body which reliably sets the global standard for identifying and stopping money launderers and terror financiers. As I’ve said all along, we must look to bodies such as this to measure our progress in TT.

Imagine my surprise when the Guardian turned this valuable report of the respected FATF upside-down.
Ignore the poor Guardian and read the report yourself.

The report only mentions Trinidad and Tobago with praise for recent progress and commitments to improve in the areas of Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism:

"Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago has demonstrated progress in improving its AML/CFT regime; however, the FATF has determined that certain strategic AML/CFT deficiencies remain. Trinidad and Tobago has made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and the CFATF to address these deficiencies, including by: (1) implementing adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets without delay (Special Recommendation III); (2) implementing adequate procedures for the confiscation of funds related to money laundering (Recommendation 3); (3) ensuring a fully operational and effectively functioning FIU, including supervisory powers (Recommendation 26)."

It is an unfortunate fact that small nations such as Trinidad and Tobago can easily be dragged into the dirty business of money laundering and terror financing. Thankfully in our case, the bad actors appear to be outside the government and we can marshal our forces against them. Whatever the faults of the Manning regime they at least appear to want to put a stop to dubious and dangerous financial behaviors. Trinidad has always been on the right side of history’s major conflicts and we should continue to remain on the right side of the global war on terrorism.

I’ve been saying for years that we must get serious about the issue of money laundering. This is not simply a problem of the rich trying to avoid taxes or otherwise shelter honest money. We must remain vigilant over our financial comings and goings as devious characters lurk amongst us, attempting to take advantage of our open, accepting and forgiving society.

In two earlier posts (Friday, 4th December and Friday 18th December, 2010) I wrote about the dangers of “State capture” and money laundering. There is no need to repeat here what I said then … just scroll down and you can read it. But the point is that this is another aspect of the dangers that a small society like ours faces. And we must also be wary of journalists and newspapers who do not report accurately. As to why the Guardian would want to turn a report on its head I cannot say. It is either sheer incompetence or somebody there has an agenda of some sort. Give me another reason?

In this space we will give credit where credit is due, and in this case Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s Government at least appears to be doing the right thing. Of course, a serious question remains as to whether or not there are persons lower down the “totem pole” who have an interest in making certain that no matter what the Government does (any Government whether Manning’s or somebody else’s) is frustrated. The society in general, and this matter in particular, is not helped by inaccurate reporting from a newspaper that boasts of its accuracy in reporting on serious matters.

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