Report shows Caribbean still eyed for money laundering
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, March 03, 2008 – The United States State Department has released a report indicating that it's keeping a close eye on a number of Caribbean states where large amounts of money are being laundered.
The 2008 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report just released by the Department pointed to a number of countries that are 'jurisdictions of primary concern' –that is, those that are major money laundering counties.
The report identified Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Haiti and Venezuela as among those jurisdictions of primary concern, but made it clear that this classification did not speak to how these countries have been trying to stamp out the crime.
"The focus of analysis…is on the significance of the amount of proceeds laundered, not of the anti-money laundering measures taken," the report explained.
"It is not based on an assessment of the country or jurisdiction's legal framework to combat money laundering; its role in the terrorist financing problem; or the degree of its cooperation in the international fight against money laundering, including terrorist financing."
In the case of Antigua, the document noted that although it has comprehensive legislation in place to regulate its financial sector, it remains susceptible to money laundering because of its offshore financial sectors and Internet gaming industry.
"As with other countries in the region, illicit proceeds from the transshipment of narcotics are laundered in Antigua and Barbuda. Its offshore financial sector exacerbates Antigua and Barbuda's vulnerability to money laundering," the report indicated.
"Despite the comprehensive nature of the law, Antigua and Barbuda has yet to prosecute a money laundering case and there are few arrests or prosecutions."
The twin-island state's government has been urged to conduct more thorough investigations that could lead to higher numbers of arrests, prosecutions, and convictions; and train law enforcement and customs authorities to recognise money laundering typologies that fall outside the formal financial sector.
In the Bahamas, which is a regional and offshore financial centre, money laundering was said to be primarily related to financial fraud and the proceeds of drug trafficking, while Belize which does not have the same prominence in the industry, has seen the criminal activity occurring within its offshore financial sector.
According to the report, while Haiti's dire economic condition and unstable political situation inhibit it from advancing its formal financial sector, it is a major drug-transit country with money laundering activity linked to the drug trade.
"Money laundering and other financial crimes are facilitated through the banks and casinos, and through foreign currency transactions and real estate transactions," it was noted.
Venezuela was however identified as a major concern since according to the U.S report, it's "proximity to drug producing countries, weaknesses in its anti-money laundering regime, refusal to cooperate with the United States on counternarcotics activities, and rampant corruption throughout the law enforcement, judicial, banking, and banking regulatory sectors continue to make Venezuela vulnerable to money laundering."
In the other category of 'jurisdictions of concern', the Caribbean territories of Aruba, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Suriname are among those listed. The classification for St. Kitts represents an improved view of the country since it was previously seen as a country that presented primary concern.
The report suggested that while the actual money laundering problem in these jurisdictions is not as acute, "they too must undertake efforts to develop or enhance their anti-money laundering regimes".