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Thursday 23 May 2019
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Senate passes ‘funny money’ bill

THE Senate on Wednesday night passed a bill to amend several laws that aim to curb money laundering – the Miscellaneous Provisions (Proceeds of Crime, Anti-Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago) Bill 2018. The bill, piloted by Attorney General (AG) Faris Al-Rawi, was passed despite Opposition shouts of “no!”

Independent Senator Anthony Vieira, an attorney, lamented the short time for senators to examine the bill and any interrelated legislation. He asked if his role turned out to be perfunctory, that is superficial and done just for the sake of duty. Vieira urged the AG to treat senators as valuable and keen to make a genuine input into new laws.

He saw nothing wrong with the AG’s Office having an Anti Terrorism Unit. To fight terrorism needs co-operation under international treaties for mutual legal assistance, tracing funds and getting suspects to court.

Independent Senator Paul Richards called for laws on political campaign financing, as he abhorred the idea of parties being funded by white-collar criminals. Gun-runners and terrorists could seep in as a threat to the polity. he warned. Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh cited joblessness especially amongst youngsters as a risk factor for re-creating the conditions of social discontent linked to the 1990 attempted coup, that he said nowadays could lead a step further to terrorism.

Independent Senator Charrise Seepersad queried the bill for deleting the Unit Trust Corporation and National Insurance Board from the list of supervising agencies that monitor for clients’ suspicious transactions under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA.) “Billions of dollars pass through these institutions and they are both designated systemically important financial institutions (SIFIS) by the Central Bank.” The bank has not put in regulations for SIFIS, after three years, she said.

“The only part of the UTC’s business that is specifically regulated is the bureau de change.” The bank gives the UTC its licence to operate and regulates them, Seepersad said.

“Other than that, the UTC’s business is not subject to Central Bank regulations. UTC voluntarily submits to oversight by the Central Bank since there is no act that says UTC is to be regulated by Central Bank.” Even if the Central Bank has regulatory oversight over the two institutions, they should still be subject to POCA. “Central Bank is responsible for monetary policy. They are not responsible for anti-money laundering oversight.

“These institutions should therefore remain subject to POCA. Mr Attorney General, I’m asking you please consider this. I’m very, very concerned.”

Independent Senator Sophia Chote SC urged the AG to reconsider clause three whereby the AG’s role is done by an Anti Terrorism Unit in his ministry, noting that strict conditions exist for that ministry’s Central Authority.

“I have some concerns about the derogation of the powers of an AG on what’s before us and I suggest it be redrafted.”

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