Jamaica is making strides with regard to investigations into the actions of money launderers and the seizing of assets garnered through money laundering, while the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in Guyana continues to be deficient in these areas and there is no word on a search for the assets of convicted drug lord Roger Khan.
According to a news report in the April 28 edition of the Jamaica Gleaner, the “Financial Investigations Division (FID) (established in 2002) is now holding on to property and other assets valued at J$1.23 billion, which it believes were acquired through the ill-gotten wealth of criminals over the last six years.”
An April 27 report in same newspaper suggests that J$33 million of the amount was found in bank accounts which belonged to one-time Jamaican drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
According to its website, the FID is an agency within Jamaica’s Finance Ministry charged with a range of responsibilities aimed at deterring “the use of Jamaica’s economy for money laundering and other financial crimes…”
The FID is required to: “Investigate allegations of money laundering, financial crimes and corruption; Detect, deter and aid the prosecution of offences committed under the various acts dealing with financial crimes by reducing the actual and expected profits that would evolve from such corruptive practices; (and) Collaborate with overseas bodies in fighting transnational crimes under the Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act.”
The FIU in Guyana is the FID’s counterpart, however the only thing the two entities seem to have in common is their mandate, as the FIU, since being established in 2009, is yet to report on laundering in Guyana, arrest and/or prosecute a single launderer, or seize assets believed to have been acquired with laundered proceeds.
In fact, the agency functioned for four years with just one employee, FIU Head Paul Geer. The FIU staff complement was only recently bolstered after it advertised for legal advisers and financial analysts in December of last year amid pressure from international organisations to move against laundering.
It is believed that the decision was taken to hire additional staff members after the agency came under intense scrutiny with the advent of the row over the Anti-Money Laundering Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill 2013. The agency laid reports in the National Assembly for the first time last year, even though it had been required to do so annually since 2009.
Despite the lack of official evidence of money laundering by persons in Guyana, the arrest and eventual conviction of Shaheed Roger Khan, more popularly known as Roger Khan, by United States (US) law enforcers brought in its wake undisputed evidence that at least one man was involved in the laundering of cash gained through illicit avenues.
In 2006 Khan was arrested by Surinamese law enforcement, and deported via Trinidad and Tobago on the instruction of the country’s Justice Minister Chandrikapersad Santokhi. He was then handed over to immigration officials there before being transferred to US law enforcement agents. By June of the same year he was arraigned in a New York court, and in October 2009 he was sentenced to thirty years on three charges of drug smuggling, witness tampering, and gun possession in Vermont. However, the sentences were to run concurrently meaning he would serve only fifteen years in an American prison.
Though it has never been confirmed by an official investigation, Khan is believed to have owned several businesses, including a housing development endeavour and a carpet business, both supposedly established with laundered money. Additionally, he was believed to have owned several properties and vehicles.
Investigations to ascertain and seize Khan’s assets were never conducted, even after he confessed to drug trafficking, an activity usually related to money laundering. In 2009, then Legal Affairs Minister Charles Ramson had said that an investigation into Khan’s activities could be possible if a judge were to direct the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to initiate a probe. He further said that the Police Commissioner (Henry Greene held the portfolio at the time), aided by whoever, or whichever agency he sought help from, would be responsible for inquiring if there was any truth to allegations in relation to Khan’s activities.
Asked if the government would go after Khan’s assets, given that the AML/CFT Bill 2009 had been assented to, Ramson again said that if such steps would be taken they would be done in conjunction with the DPP.
He gave assurances though, that if there was evidence that Khan’s drug resources were used in relation to property he had in Guyana those assets would be moved on. “I am sure every step will be taken by this government and as long as I sit here as the AG,” Ramson had said. Five years and one Attorney General later, however, there has been no report released by the FIU, the DPP or the Police Force, commenting on investigations into the assets of Khan.
Stabroek News spoke with FIU Head Geer recently in an effort to ascertain the status of the agency’s investigations, if any, into Khan’s activities. Geer said that established laws prohibit him or any other member of the FIU from discussing upcoming, planned or past investigations. He said that this law regulates agencies such as the FIU across the world, and indicated that divulging such information was punishable by multimillion dollar fines and/or several years in prison.
Checks were also made with the Guyana Police Force. However recently appointed Crime Chief Leslie James said he could not recall any details of an investigation – if one took place – into Khan’s activities or his assets. Cabinet Secretary and Chairman of Guyana’s Central Intelligence Committee Dr Roger Luncheon, at the time Khan was handed over to United States officials, had said that the administration could find “no compelling evidence “for him to be investigated. Luncheon’s statements came despite an admission by Khan in the form of an advertisement in some local papers that he had used his own resources to help stabilise the crime situation in Guyana.
It is believed that Khan’s unit, popularly referred to as the ‘phantom squad,’ was responsible for scores of executions and disappearances.
Luncheon did, however, express the administration’s “principled objection to the forceful and unlawful removal of its citizen across jurisdictions.”
Meantime, countries such as Jamaica continue to make strides against money laundering. In the case of the twin-island republic, last year, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (FIUTT) reported that TT$638,844,310 in alleged “dirty money” passed through the country’s system over the period October 2011 to September 2012. While the country had only been able to arrest and change one person for that period for engaging in fraudulent behaviour, this is one more than Guyana’s FIU has been able to arrest and charge in its near five-year lifespan.