Finance Minister Colm Imbert believes TT will soon be removed from the European Union’s high-risk list for countries that haven’t amended legislation and financial processes to meet standards of modern anti-money laundering and combating terrorism financing (AML/CFT) mechanisms.
The country is currently on a grey list for nations which have implemented some requirements but are still to become fully compliant.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi is working with the Finance Ministry to meet the remaining deficiencies in local law with the Finance Intelligence Unit, pending review by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The country has been working at this for years now and in 2017, began more determined action to meeting international requirements which include aligning laws on tax offences and criminal justice with globally accepted standards.
Al-Rawi hoped to be at “the end of the railroad” last June when he announced he would be attending the International Co-operation Review Group of the FATF for an assessment of technical compliance.
The situation is humiliating for a country that built an entire Financial Centre on the Port-of-Spain waterfront as a tangible expression of its intention to become a capital of Caribbean finance, then failed to find the political will to follow through on those ambitions with a top-level strategic plan that should have proceeded regardless of the government in power.
It was compounded by the insistence of the AG, in November 2017, that the country had not been grey-listed at all. That argument, a claim that grey-listing applied only at another level of evaluation turned out to be a splitting of hairs that proved quite ashy.
These faltering steps to compliance, outlined since 2001 by the FATF generally and specifically for TT since May 2007, have been an ongoing concern for the Banker’s Association of TT, which has repeatedly noted the consequences of being a monitored jurisdiction.
These concerns include TT being given a higher country risk ranking with commensurate increases in difficulty for financial transactions and ease of participating in international business.
While TT has been bickering internally, Jamaica has stolen a significant lead on this country by not only working to align its legislation with global standards, it has effected some major money-laundering seizures. That country has also been aggressively promoting itself as a source of Caribbean inventiveness and innovation in the financial technology sector, with some success.
TT should not have been relegated to a grey list for financial risk. It should not be this far behind in FinTech. We do not lack the minds to do this work, we consistently and demonstrably lack the political will and capacity to make it happen.