In Trinidad: ‘People have bought $2 million property with suitcase of cash’

(Trinidad Express) Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Susan Francois has suggested that a “cash-restricted” system be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago to combat money laundering and corruption.

Speaking at the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (TTTI) anti-corruption conference at the Hilton Trinidad in St Ann’s yesterday, Francois said cash payments are untraceable.

“We need to do something that would be new to us. We know that the use of cash makes countries vulnerable to money laundering.

“Cash intensive economies are more vulnerable to money laundering because cash is private and anonymous. If I give you money there is no trace. There is no transactional history.”

She said in Trinidad there have been instances of people using cash to buy multi-million dollar properties.

“Imagine somebody purchasing property with a million or two million (dollars) in a suitcase.”

Francois noted that some countries have implemented a currency reporting system whereby all transactions where cash above a certain amount is used, must be reported to the FIU.

Alternatively, she said some have restricted the use of cash where transactions over a certain amount must be made through a banking institution.

Done well in Jamaica

Noting that this country may not be ready for such a system, she said this has been successfully implemented in Jamaica.

 “Before 2016, Jamaica had what is called a currency transaction report where any transaction above US$15,000 which is carried out for any goods or services in Jamaica in cash, has to be reported to the FIU.

“Then in 2016 they changed the law and they said now any transaction US$10,000 and above cannot be made in cash. You have to go put the money in a bank and make a bank cheque. So you cannot pay for goods in cash if it costs over US$10,000.”

Francois said this has resulted in Jamaica creating a lot of goodwill in the international community.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the conference, CEO of the American Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago (AmchamTT) Nirad Tewarie said some countries have been leaning toward a cash-less system.

 

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