The Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) says the Caribbean has fallen behind on meeting standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
ACAMS executive director, Rick McDonell, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that up to half of the countries in the region are not adequately compliant in meeting FATF regulations.
He said while countries have done a lot of work to ensure the passage of the required anti-money laundering legislation, a number of them have been placed on the FATF’s grey list because there are still concerns about effectiveness of those laws.
“So for money laundering or anti-money laundering, you need to have strong laws in place, you need to have a financial intelligence unit that receives suspicious transactions that are reported by the banks or other institutions, and other frameworks to help to make sure that there are tools available.
“And in terms of Barbados and most other countries in the region, those tools are available to a reasonable degree. Barbados is in the process of increasing those tools and making them stronger.
“The other side of the assessment process is how well as the system been achieving its goals of deterring financial crime; deterring money laundering or proactively prosecuting people. It’s on that level that the compliance levels are not high,” he said.
McDonell said that it will take “a long time” to prove that the systems are effective, given that the standards are relatively new.
“You might have the right laws, you might have good supervisory capabilities, but are they actually showing results? That might take years and years to achieve.”
He said there is no set standard for compliance, and evaluations are conducted on an individual basis, and it will be a challenge for countries to prove they are compliant.
“I can’t predict what the outcome of those evaluations will be because every country is different in the sense of what laws, what effective measures are in place, but the scorecard is looking like it needs improvement across the board in terms of all countries in this region and other regions.
“The FATF standards are rigorous; they’re demanding, but they’re there for a purpose. That is to ensure that the financial system is clean, and stops crooked money proceeds crime [from] coming in to the financial system. And you know it’s where it isn’t stopped there needs to be detection mechanisms in place, follow up investigations where necessary, and prosecutions following those investigations.”
The senior official of the anti-money laundering organisation, said however, he remains optimistic that the Caribbean will eventually achieve compliance.
“There’s follow up mechanisms on regular basis, so if you’ve done poorly as a country in relation to some or all of the standards, then you must report back on a regular basis to the CFATF in terms of the Caribbean.
“The other thing that gives me room for some confidence is that the governments in the region are treating it very seriously. There’s commitment to ensure full compliance in due time. And I think I can say that in relation to all of the countries in the region that I’ve spoken to, officials in almost all the countries in the Caribbean region, the level of commitment and the allocation of prioritized work to be done is a serious one,” he said.
The issue of compliance was the focus of a recent anti-financial crime symposium held here.