The Government of the United States last week released the 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which assesses the work being done by individual countries to address drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption.
The report noted that the current government had continued to make progress in the fight against illicit drugs.
While parts of the report have been reported upon, this is the entire report as it relates to Trinidad and Tobago.
Drug and Chemical Control
Trinidad and Tobago’s close proximity to Venezuela, open coastline, and direct transportation routes to Europe, Canada, and the United States make it an ideal location for cocaine and marijuana transshipment. In 2016, illegal narcotics shipments mainly moved up from Trinidad’s southern borders. Marijuana is locally produced and is the most widely used drug domestically, but other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (ecstasy) are also available.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continues to make progress in its ability to investigate complex counternarcotics cases targeting criminal networks, but is challenged by insufficient resources and capacity. Robust interdiction efforts continued in 2016, though overall drug seizures decreased from 2015. The strong commitment to drug demand reduction persists, but treatment capacity remains under-resourced to meet the need.
Corruption and gaps in legislative and organizational implementation continue to challenge the country’s efforts to curb the trafficking and use of illegal narcotics.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
Trinidad and Tobago demonstrates continued commitment to drug control through bilateral cooperation as well as intelligence sharing with countries of origin, transit, and destination. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago regularly communicates with local, regional, and international organizations, collaborating on international and national priorities. However, Trinidad and Tobago’s drug control institutions are continually challenged by deficiencies in staffing and funding.
Additionally, distrust within and between certain units of law enforcement, the military, and the intelligence community impedes effective interagency information sharing and collaboration. Counternarcotic units receive support from international donors in specialized training and equipment. Improvements in investigating counternarcotics cases illustrate the effectiveness of international support, which have enhanced the ability of Trinidad and Tobago’s law enforcement and investigative units to track sophisticated criminal networks.
Trinidad and Tobago has mutual legal assistance treaties with the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Trinidad and Tobago maintains a narcotics control and law enforcement letter of agreement with the United States and a maritime law enforcement agreement that enables the United States to patrol Trinidad and Tobago’s waters, overfly territorial sea and detain vessels suspected of trafficking drugs.
The United States also maintains an extradition treaty with Trinidad and Tobago. There were few extraditions prior to 2015 from Trinidad and Tobago, but the past two years have seen a sustained utilization of the extradition treaty.
2. Supply Reduction
Marijuana is the only known locally-produced illicit drug. Production is concentrated in small farms in heavily forested, mountainous regions. Local producers compete with imports from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Guyana, and Venezuela. Other illicit drugs – primarily cocaine, but also small amounts of heroin and ecstasy – are trafficked through the country by transnational organized crime groups operating in Trinidad and Tobago, exploiting its close proximity to Venezuela and vulnerabilities at ports of entry.
The main destination for these substances continues to be the European market. In collaboration with several international partners, Trinidad and Tobago law enforcement entities seized approximately 1.2 metric tons (MT) of marijuana and 292 kilograms (kg) of cocaine in 2016, compared to approximately 1.35 MT and 249 kg respectively in 2015. The Trinidad and Tobago Transnational Crime Unit, collaborating with law enforcement, international partners, and the Coast Guard, plays a significant role in the detection and interception of illegal narcotics.
3. Public Information, Prevention, and Treatment
Information on drug-use trends in Trinidad and Tobago is anecdotal, and the government is seeking to conduct a survey over the next year to acquire empirical data on drug usage. It is widely accepted, however, that drug use occurs across all socio-economic classes in the country. The primary drug used is marijuana, with cocaine, including crack cocaine, the secondmost frequently used drug. Drug treatment professionals assess that drug usage continues to increase among youth.
There are 29 drug treatment programs in Trinidad and Tobago supported by the government, non-governmental organizations, religious groups, and hospitals. Challenges remain in integrating existing criminal justice, healthcare, welfare and education systems to effectively treat drug use disorders, and there is a need to train more prevention specialists and treatment service providers to accredited standards.
Trinidad and Tobago’s National Supply Reduction Strategy 2014 – 2024 is designed to reduce both the supply of and demand for illegal drugs. Drug prevention efforts include school-based education programs; training for educators; anti-drug media campaigns; and special outreach events. Trinidad and Tobago continues to successfully provide, and is expanding, an alternative drug treatment sentencing program for adults. In September 2015, Trinidad and Tobago, collaborating with the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission and the United States, launched its Adolescent Drug Treatment Program to train professionals who interact with adolescents to identify alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use.
Two new modules were completed in 2016. The project will soon be finalized for introduction into Trinidad and Tobago’s Juvenile Justice System.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago neither directly encourages nor facilitates the illicit production or distribution of drugs nor the laundering of proceeds from the sale of illicit drugs. No charges of drug-related corruption were filed against senior government officials in 2016. Media and anecdotal reports of drug-related corruption in the ranks of the Police Service, Prisons, Defense Force, Customs and Excise Division, and port employees are common.
the Police Complaints Authority, an independent law enforcement oversight body, recorded 352 complaints, including perverting the course of justice, fraud, corruption and extortion in 2016.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The United States supports a wide range of efforts designed to address crime and violence affecting citizens in Trinidad and Tobago, primarily through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). CBSI is a security partnership between the United States and the Caribbean that strives to substantially reduce illicit trafficking, advance public safety and citizen security, and promote justice. CBSI programming in Trinidad and Tobago focuses on law enforcement and military capacity building, juvenile justice, and demand reduction.
CBSI regional projects are underway in maritime and aerial domain awareness; law enforcement capacity-building; criminal justice reform; preventing financial crimes; demand reduction; and reducing illicit trafficking of firearms. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is an active partner in CBSI programs.
The entities and individuals working to combat narcotics trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago continue to face considerable institutional challenges. In order to deter traffickers, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago should implement reforms and programs to expedite prosecutions, and persist with a more evidence-based criminal justice system to enable convictions.
Money laundering and Financial Crimes
Trinidad and Tobago’s close proximity to drug producing countries, relatively stable economy, and developed financial systems make it a target for criminals looking to launder money.
Proceeds from drug trafficking, illegal arms sales, fraud, tax evasion, and public corruption are the most common sources of laundered funds and are derived from both domestic and international criminal activity. Narcotics trafficking organizations and organized crime entities, operating locally and internationally, control the majority of illicit proceeds moving through the country.
There have not been any money laundering convictions to date, although the Police Service Financial Investigations Branch continues to bring cash seizure and forfeiture cases to the courts.
Trinidad and Tobago institutions encompassed in the AML regime continue to be challenged due to capacity and resource constraints. Sustained capacity building, ensuring adequate legislation, regulating the gaming industry, and increasing cooperation among law enforcement entities, the FIU, and the judiciary would greatly improve AML investigations and the rate of convictions.
VULNERABILITIES AND EXPECTED TYPOLOGIES
Trinidad and Tobago’s AML regime is unable to quantify the extent to which fraud and public corruption contribute to money laundering. Fraud and waste in government procurement have been identified as problems, but rarely result in convictions. The failure to prosecute financial crimes successfully has a corrosive impact on the integrity of public finances and may encourage others to engage in financial crimes.
Money laundering also occurs outside the traditional financial system. While public casinos and online gaming are illegal in Trinidad and Tobago, gamblers take advantage of “private members’ clubs,” which operate as casinos and are able to move large amounts of cash due to Trinidad and Tobago’s lack of adequate AML supervision of this sector. Reports also suggest that certain local religious organizations are involved in money laundering. STRs reviewed by the FIU and Customs and Excise Division officials indicate that TBML occurs.
There are 17 FTZs in Trinidad and Tobago, where manufactured products are exported.
Companies must present proof of legitimacy and are subject to background checks prior to being allowed to operate in the FTZs, and while operating are required to submit tax returns quarterly and audited financial statements yearly. There is no evidence the FTZs are involved in money laundering schemes.
Trinidad and Tobago does not have a significant offshore banking sector. The volume of money laundering in the offshore banking sector is unknown. Currency transactions below the STR threshold are common.
KEY AML LAWS AND REGULATIONS
Trinidad and Tobago has fairly comprehensive KYC and STR regulations.
Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the CFATF, a FATF-style regional body. Its most recent mutual evaluation can be found at: http://www.fatf-gafi.org/media/fatf/documents/reports/merfsrb/cfatf-4mer...
The Attorney General’s office is committed to addressing legislative deficiencies and has prioritized AML investigations and prosecutions. Trinidad and Tobago needs to consistently comply with international standards regarding its legal and regulatory frameworks and to demonstrate commitment to enforce AML laws. Trinidad and Tobago should improve its capacity to investigate and prosecute money laundering cases successfully in order to increase its conviction rate.
ENFORCEMENT/IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES AND COMMENTS
Trinidad and Tobago currently has 13 financial prosecutions and no convictions to date. AML stakeholders continue to face many challenges, and Trinidad and Tobago has taken steps to address deficiencies. In 2016, Trinidad and Tobago appointed a Seized Assets Committee, to establish regulations and management of monies seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Trinidad and Tobago continues to address additional AML legislative deficiencies. The country is in its third and final phase of its national risk assessment (NRA). The NRA will identify risks and vulnerabilities to the AML regime and guide Trinidad and Tobago in applying mitigating measures.