THE demonetisation exercise in December 2019 unearthed 750 suspicious transactions, Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister of Youth Development and National Service, told the House of Representatives on Friday during debate on the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
During this exercise, cotton-based $100 bills were replaced by polymer notes.
Hinds said a recent report by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) had said that for the first time ever the unit had received 1,831 suspicious transaction reports (STRs.)
Of these, he said, "Forty-one per cent, or 750 of them, were primarily associated with the demonetisation of the cotton-based $100 bills."
Hinds said the report noted a 141 per cent increase in STRs sent in by financial institutions and an 80 per cent increase in reports sent in by businesses, over the previous report.
"There's a lot, a lot of activity taking place."
On the bill's provisions, Hinds said from 2016-2021 TT co-operating with Commonwealth countries on 50 occasions for mutual legal assistance, namely 15 incoming requests and 35 outgoing.
Requests with non-Commonwealth countries included 12 linked to the US, plus requests linked to Poland and Colombia, he added.
Hinds recalled that a problem had been found at Piarco Airport, already on the public record, which was reported to the Government by diplomatic means using this type of legislation.
"It was the anti-money-laundering dragnet/blanket of the US that identified it and informed the Government of TT," he said."That is what alerted the Government of TT, that America found money floating around internationally and being laundered. They first thought it was drugs (drug money.)"
Hinds said the bill spreads the dragnet further against suspicious transactions.
"That is to collaborate with all the other measures we have taken in this country to ensure that those who have cocoa in the sun must look out for rain. I know we have plenty cocoa farmers in TT."
He complained some Opposition MPs didn't understand what "cocoa farming" was all about.
The House passed the bill unanimously with amendments and adjourned to next Friday at 1.30 pm, private member's day. Opposition whip David Lee said the House will debate motion four, a no-confidence motion in Finance Minister Colm Imbert over his handling of the economy, in the name of Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo.