The Financial Intelligence Unit's (FIU) detection rate of suspicious activity in the financial sector is up by 25 per cent in comparison to last year.
This was revealed by Tobago House of Assembly's (THA) Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles during his address at the 9th annual Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Tobago conference at the Magdalena Grand Golf and Beach Resort on Monday.
He said the FIU, which fights money laundering and terrorism financing, showed "a 25 per cent increase in the number of suspicious transaction/activity reports... moving from 877 reports in 2017 to 1,100 in 2018."
The figure was part of the FIU's overall increase since 2013. The number of detected suspicious activity cases moved from 554 in 2013 to 1,100 in 2018, the Chief Secretary said.
Charles said the FIU had also increased the number and kinds of businesses and personnel under its watch.
"Even more commendable is your increase to 2,756 of supervised entities, which include a wide spectrum of non-regulated financial institutions, professionals and business sectors."
He said the Government had done its part to help fight money laundering by passing the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Bill 2019.
He added the FIU was also allowing citizens to help in the fight by introducing a secured online reporting and data management solution -'FIU Connect,' in collaboration with the USA. Charles said at present there are sensitisation programmes mounted by the unit to educate non-profit organisations and the general public on money laundering and terrorist financing.
But Charles said more could be done to curtail such illegal activity if education programmes took place at an earlier age. He also threw out a challenge to the unit to partner with Tobago-based civil society and THA groups.
"...Consider partnering with our Financial Literacy Secretariat under the Division of Finance and the Economy, to begin introducing information about anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism to our high school students and school leavers," he said.
"Partner with the Youths Energised for Success (YES Programme), ... which is geared towards preparing and developing young entrepreneurs and young professionals. You may even want to consider partnering with the Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour, to sensitise communities and small businesses about the dangers of ML and CFT," he suggested.
The FIU, which was incorporated under this country's Financial Intelligence Unit of T&T Act of 2009, is part of the Egmont Group — a globally recognised network of financial units seeking to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Reporter: Camille McEachnie