Over $500 million in old $100 notes have not been converted to the new polymer bills.

Police, the Financial Intelligence Bureau (FIB) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) may currently be exploring who has the “missing” $500 million missing in paper $100 notes which haven’t yet been converted to new polymer notes, says Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

Imbert spoke about the matter in the Senate yesterday replying to queries. Independent Senator Paul Richards had asked what percentage of the $8 billion in “old” paper notes which had existed, was converted to polymer up to January 31.

Imbert said at that date, the value of $7.525 billion in paper $100 bills had been converted.

“This would be approximately 94 per cent of the estimated $8b in paper-based bills that were in circulation prior to the demonetisation process,” he said.

Richards asked if there was any mechanism envisioned to identify and collect the remaining percentage.

Imbert said, “I wish I could find that out too, Senator Richards. I’d love to know who has that missing $500m.”

“I assume through a process of auditing in terms of banknotes that would have been sent out to commercial banks it may be possible to discover who has that extra $500m. But it’ll be very laborious. Perhaps the police, the FIB and FIU may be investigating this matter—as we speak. I wouldn’t want to say much more.”

Richards asked if there was information if the money is in T&T or outside. Imbert replied, “T&T currency has no value outside of T&T. If someone shipped it out, I don’t know why they’d do that so I’d have to assume it would have to be somewhere in T&T.”

“I wouldn’t take bait from my friends to say that it’s buried under somebody’s house. But I think most of it would be here,” he said.

Imbert also replied to a question from UNC senator Saddam Hosein on the number of polymer $100 notes ordered and received by Central Bank. Imbert said $94m worth of new polymer notes were bought out of which $80m have been received to date.

“I can’t give a precise time to receive the other $14m,” he added.

He said the Central Bank would take delivery of the (rest) when required to change the old notes.

“Polymer notes have a lifespan of about seven years as compared with paper notes which have a lifespan of about two to three years. Central Bank will take delivery of the remaining $14m as and when existing notes become destroyed or worn out,” he said.