Jamaica’s Financial Investigations Division seeking greater autonomy

Jamaica’s Minister without portfolio within the Ministry of Finance Fayval Williams

Jamaica’s sixteen-year-old Financial Investigations Division (FID), a department created within the country’s Ministry of Finance to track and expose financial misdeeds within state agencies is reporting “quiet success” in its pursuits, a circumstance that strengthens the case being made for it to have greater independence, budgetary and human resources capacity and autonomy, according to a recent report in the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Gleaner quotes Minister within the Ministry of Finance Fayval Williams as saying recently that such a move is critical to giving the agency the operational leeway in expanding investigations that may involve other domestic and overseas partners.

The lobby for an autonomous FID which appears to point to greater seriousness on the part of the Jamaican authorities to rein in financial crimes involving state assets has been intensifying since earlier this year and the Gleaner quotes Williams as saying that such a move would fit in with international best practices.

Williams, the Gleaner report suggests, believes that the mounting lobby for the strengthening of the FID is justified by the fact that it has been “quietly garnering success in using the tools available under the Proceeds of Crime Act to restrain and recover proceeds of crime,” recent cases of which “include large cash seizures and significant civil recoveries.”

The Gleaner article also alludes to the September launch of the FID’s anti-money laundering reporting platform, which opens the door for the country’s financial sector to make its suspicious transaction reports electronically. The software that supports the reporting procedure, according to the Gleaner allows for “better data mining to assess the major money-laundering trends and typologies taking place in the jurisdiction.”  Additionally it will support the FID in its quest to “assess and sift through” the more than 300,000 suspicious transaction reports made annually.

Williams’ presentation at this month’s Seventh Annual Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism meeting addressed a number of related issues including the appointment of receivers to administer seized properties, the Gleaner reports, pointing to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) assessment of Jamaica’s substantial effectiveness in the area of “confiscation measures.” The country’s proficiency in understanding the risks to the state’s security systems, the use of financial intelligence to combat money-laundering and other serious crimes and supervisory measures applied to the financial sector have been assessed as “moderately effective.”

Tightening deficiencies in the financial intelligence regimes of Caribbean territories with a view to strengthening states’ capacity to respond effectively to drug trafficking-related money laundering and other serious crimes have been, for several years, on the agendas of the region’s legal and policing agendas though what continues to be reported as a continued proliferation of such crimes points to the limited success realized up until now in reducing their frequency.

 

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