Colm Imbert ---USE

Minister Colm Imbert at yesterday's sitting of the Lower House in Parliament.

Photo :JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

PEOPLE who “due to circumstances beyond their control” cannot exchange their $100 bills for the new $100 polymer note within the 14-day period will be given a grace period of three months.

Introducing the Proceeds of Crime and Central Bank Bill last night in the House of Representatives, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said there was a safeguard for people who find themselves in difficulty.

“They may have been out of the country, they may be ill, they may have been in hospital, or bedridden and find themselves unable to go to the bank to deposit the existing paper notes they have or to exchange the existing paper notes for the new polymer notes.”

Imbert said under Clause 27 (4) the Central Bank would be able to redeem any of the specified notes presented within a period of three months after the appointed date (of cancellation) “if it is satisfied that the failure to present the notes for redemption prior to the appointed date (of cancellation) resulted from circumstances beyond the control of the true owner of the notes or that there was some other good or sufficient reason for the failure”.

“So if, and the best example is if somebody was out of the country or was in hospital and cannot deposit their existing $100 bills or cannot go to the bank to exchange their $100 bills for new polymer, the Central Bank is being given a discretion under rules that would be approved by the minister, to redeem at face value three months after the appointed date (of cancellation of the notes).”

Imbert also said the bill also gives the minister the power to extend the date.

“If for some reason, which we do not foresee at this point in time, it is necessary to extend the date the minister on the direction of Cabinet, will extend the date of cancellation or redemption, after the period of cancellation, within that three-month period.”

Imbert said the Ministry of National Security had advised that there was too much “dirty money” in circulation, that is, money being the proceeds of money laundering, drug trafficking and corruption.

He said at the present time the Central Bank Act stipulates that the bank must give no less than three months’ notice before the cancellation of any bank note.

“When you are dealing with this, time is of the essence and therefore we are moving the minimum period for cancelling any bank note from three months to 14 days’ notice. The specific bank note being cancelled is the $100 bill, which is the currency of choice of those involved in illicit activity.”

From the date of notice to the appointed date of cancellation of the bank note, both types of $100 notes would be valid tender, but after the date of cancellation, only the polymer note would be valid for trading.

Imbert said the Government was also proposing the Proceeds of Crime bill to change the amount of what was deemed to be a large transaction.

Currently the bank must report any transaction over $90,000.

He said the bill was proposing to adjust the amount that would require the internal controls of the bank.

However, when asked by Chaguanas West MP Ganga Singh what figure was being contemplated, Imbert said all of this would be revealed “in due course”.

“When you doing these things, you cannot reveal everything immediately. It would be revealed when the appointed date is revealed,” he said.

Opposition support but why now?

Chief Whip David Lee said the Opposition was in full support but had some concerns and needed clarity.

If enough lead time isn’t given, especially during the Christmas season, it could cause panic and chaos, he said.

He said a volume of money could be coming into certain businesses at this time of year which would allow the disguising of dirty money under the pretext of higher sales.

Also, he asked whether the minister had taken into consideration the security aspect of individuals having to go to the banks with money to exchange for the new dollars and the kind of “banditry” they may be exposed to.

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