SUSPICIOUS financial transactions totalling $27 billion were reported to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIUTT) in the financial year ending September 2020.
Delivering a statement in the House of Representatives yesterday on the annual report of the FIUTT for the year October 2019 to September 2020, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said during the reporting period “of Trinidad and Tobago and for the first time, the FIUTT received a total of 1,831 Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs)/Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), the most it has received throughout its ten-year existence”. This represented an 80 per cent increase from the previous reporting period, he added.
“Suspected tax evasion ranked the highest among the five most common reasons for the submission of STRs/SARs to the FIUTT. In this reporting period, the most common suspected criminal conduct were tax evasion (539); money laundering (530); suspicious financial activity (401); fraud (205) and drug trafficking (92). These five suspected crimes accounted for 97 per cent of the total number of STRs/SARs submitted and 99.89 per cent of the total monetary value of all STRs/SARs,” Imbert stated.
With respect to the financing of terrorism, the FIUTT received 12 STRs/SARs on suspected financing of terrorism compared to 97 in the previous reporting period, the Minister said.
He added that this represented an 88 per cent decrease of Financing of Terrorism-related STRs/SARs and may be attributable to the apparent collapse of the Islamic State (ISIS) of Iraq and Syria.
He said during the reporting period, the FIUTT noted a 141 per cent increase in STRs/SARs submissions from financial institutions, and an 80 per cent increase in the submission from listed businesses, in comparison to the previous year. Imbert said the total monetary value of the 1,831 STRs/SARs received in the reporting period amounted to approximately $27 billion.
Imbert also said the demonetisation exercise, which involved the replacement of cotton-based $100 notes with polymer notes, resulted in a “significant increase” in the submissions of STRs/SARs by reporting entities, with 750 received.
He said of the total of 1,831 STRs/SARs received, 1,517 were completed transactions while 314 were attempted transactions.
“The number of suspicious transactions stopped by reporting entities therefore rose to 314 in 2020, from 86 in 2019. There was also a substantial increase in the monetary value of the attempted suspicious transactions when compared with 2019,” he said.
Imbert pointed out that during October 2019 to September 30, 2020, the FIUTT adjusted its supervisory activities due to the challenges of Covid-19.
He pointed out that the national efforts to reduce the potential impact of the pandemic led to the temporary closure of business in high risk sectors such as private members’ clubs, motor vehicle sales and real estate during the period under review.
Imbert said supervisory and monitoring activities continued with the necessary adjustments, notwithstanding the challenges faced as a result of the global pandemic.
He said the FIUTT received 184 requests on 598 subjects from law enforcement authorities, with cash seizures relating to money laundering being the highest suspected criminal conduct of the requests received and representing one-third of the number of requests.
This was a 135 per cent increase, from the 26 cash seizure requests received in the previous period.