FIU: Assets of 96 people frozen in 4-year period

Monday, April 1, 2019 - 09:30

From 2015 to March 2019, al­most 100 peo­ple and groups have been added to the state’s con­sol­i­dat­ed list of ter­ror­ists whose as­sets in lo­cal fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions were or­dered to be frozen.

The list, which in­cludes 96 peo­ple and groups as of March 25, 2019, al­so or­ders lo­cal banks not to do any busi­ness with those peo­ple and en­ti­ties.

The lat­est ad­di­tion to the list was the Pak­istan-based Tariq Gi­dar Group by a High Court or­der on March 25.

The first per­son was Trinida­di­an Imam Ka­reem Ibrahim, who was con­vict­ed in 2012 for con­spir­ing to com­mit a ter­ror­ist act at the John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port in New York in 2006 by ex­plod­ing fu­el tanks and the fu­el pipeline un­der the air­port. He was sen­tenced to life in prison by a US Dis­trict Judge in 2012. Ibrahim’s name was first added to the list, which is avail­able on the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit’s web­site, in 2015.

Banks in T&T are bound by Sec­tion 55(3) of the Pro­ceeds of Crime Act, chap­ter 11:27, to re­port any sus­pi­cious fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions with­in 14 days of a trans­ac­tion if they be­lieve the funds used were the pro­ceeds of a spec­i­fied of­fence.

Fail­ure to do so can land bank staff in jail for two years and lead to them be­ing fined $500,000 on sum­ma­ry con­vic­tion. If they are in­dict­ed and con­vict­ed, they can face a fine of $3 mil­lion and a sev­en-year jail sen­tence.

But Ja­maica Mon­ey Mar­ket Bro­kers (JMMB) man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Nigel Ro­mano told Guardian Me­dia there is no set cri­te­ria for re­port­ing a trans­ac­tion but rather cer­tain red flags that bank em­ploy­ees must look for. Ro­mano is al­so a di­rec­tor of the Bankers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of T&T (BATT).

“I don’t think there is a de­f­i­n­i­tion but there are red flags that you look for in mak­ing that de­ter­mi­na­tion and once we re­port, the au­thor­i­ties will do their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The point is what you are do­ing is try­ing to es­tab­lish the bonafides of the trans­ac­tion, so some­body who is do­ing busi­ness with you and is a small busi­ness per­son and you know the busi­ness, you are not go­ing to query every trans­ac­tion,” he ex­plained.

“Some­body who comes in to open an ac­count, whether busi­ness or per­son­al, you are go­ing to ask—why do you need this ac­count? Where would the mon­ey come from? What kind of de­posits can we ex­pect?

The vol­ume of de­posits and the av­er­age size of de­posits—then we would mon­i­tor that against the ac­tiv­i­ty.”

He said the JMMB Know Your Cus­tomer (KYC) pol­i­cy is used by bank staff to weed out po­ten­tial il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties.

Us­ing the ex­am­ple of cus­tomers de­posit­ing large sums of cash from ve­hi­cle sales, Ro­mano said, “I would say not ac­cept­ing funds from cus­tomers is overkill. It’s stu­pid be­cause in that case, you could prob­a­bly show them a copy of the cer­ti­fied copy of the ve­hi­cle to show what type of ve­hi­cle it was, along with the re­ceipt.

“The point is, you don’t want to stop peo­ple from do­ing busi­ness and for me, it is im­por­tant that if you have any con­cerns, you are re­port­ing it. And is it every week you are com­ing in and say­ing you sold a ve­hi­cle?

“Your bankers should know you, that is what KYC is about. For in­stance, if I know you are work­ing and every three years, you sell a ve­hi­cle—that’s not an is­sue but if every week you come in with mon­ey and say you sold a ve­hi­cle, that is a prob­lem.”

Large sums of cash are al­ways a red flag and if em­ploy­ees are sus­pi­cious and de­cide to re­port the trans­ac­tion, there is a spe­cif­ic cri­te­ri­on which must be fol­lowed.

“We can’t tell the per­son we are go­ing to re­port the trans­ac­tion, you are not sup­posed to warn them, that is very clear. It is our du­ty to re­port, but the point is we al­so want to be very clear that we will not en­cour­age or pro­mote il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty in any way, shape or form.”

Asked if us­ing KYC might al­low trans­ac­tions that are not le­gal to slip through the cracks, Ro­mano said, “Over time I don’t think so, again KYC—the point is that busi­ness runs in a cer­tain way and like any­thing else, the out­liers are what should cause you to ques­tion and in­ves­ti­gate. You ought to file your re­port and let the au­thor­i­ties in­ves­ti­gate.”

He said the banks al­so use soft­ware that will flag any name from the con­sol­i­dat­ed list that ap­pears in their sys­tem.

“Those lists are up­dat­ed all the time and the soft­ware is al­so up­dat­ed im­me­di­ate­ly, so if some­body comes to open an ac­count, we will check the list and the soft­ware will flag them.”

He said in the event some­one who al­ready has an ac­count with the bank is put on the con­sol­i­dat­ed list, the bank has the pow­er to freeze their as­sets and in­form the FIU.

“If they are on the list they shouldn’t have an ac­count with the bank, be­cause we would not open the ac­count.

If you have an ac­count in the bank and you come on the list, the bank can close the ac­count or it can leave it open.

How­ev­er, if we leave it open we have to re­port quar­ter­ly to the FIU.”

Reporter: Sharlene Rampersad

Reporter: Sharlene Rampersad