THE GOVERNMENT is moving to crush the cash empires of criminals by removing the current Trinidad and Tobago $100 note and replacing it with a new polymer bill which has added security features.
National Security Minister Stuart Young made the announcement yesterday following the weekly Cabinet meeting in Port of Spain.
It was met with shock, surprise and questions about the potential impact the move could have on the economy and business.
“I can guarantee you this, it is going to assist us in the fight against corruption and the fight against the criminal elements who must now present that money and explain where that money came from,” said Young.
He was speaking at the weekly post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
Young said legislation will be brought to Parliament today to amend the Central Bank Act to allow the demonetisation process to be reduced from three months to a minimum of 14 days. A special sitting of the Senate will take place tomorrow to ensure approval of the amendment in the Upper House as soon as it is completed in the House of Representatives.
Young said this will assist in the fight against corruption as criminal elements must now present their money and explain where it came from. “You are simply being asked to exchange your existing $100 bills for new notes. Once you go into the system as will be announced by the Central Bank and you provide whatever cash you have in hand of the old and existing notes they will be exchanged for new polymer 100 dollar notes. This is going to assist us in the fight against corruption. Criminal elements must now present their money and explain where it came from,” he said. Young said the National Security Ministry has been monitoring the criminal elements and knows that cash fuels their crime trade.
“These criminal and corrupt activities are financed by illicit money and in many instances are supported and conducted through the use of stored cash which inter alia is difficult to trace.
“So at National Security we’ve been monitoring a number of criminal and corrupt activities and we believe that the storing of cash is being used to undermine good governance, the rule of law and also matters of national security,” he said.
Young said he advised Cabinet that in order to fight money laundering, including the financing of drugs, narcotics and illegal firearms, tax evasion and what is known as the “black money economy”, corruption, counterfeiting and other related problems, the Government should withdraw from circulation the current Trinidad and Tobago hundred dollar note issued by the Central Bank.Cabinet accepted this proposal which has been in the works for some time and receiving expert advice in partnership with the Central Bank.
Young said there was abuse of the current paper-based currency as he noted a report which indicated that people were taking one dollar notes, bleaching them, and reprinting them as $100 bills. He said the new $100 note will have security features and will also have the Braille system to assist visually impaired people identify the note.
He said this method has been adopted in other jurisdictions. The administrative side of replacing the current $100 bill will be handled by the Central Bank.
Asked about the cost of this process, Young said the Central Bank could provide details.
He said the Central Bank had a system where it was constantly purchasing new bills in different denominations and then putting them into circulation so there was always a cost.
Young said it was no “state secret” and this country’s money is printed by United Kingdom-based company De La Rue. Asked if the co-circulation of the current and new hundred dollar bills would be counter-productive, Young said at the appropriate time once the legislation is passed, “there will be further announcements.
“They will be in co-circulation for a period of time, there will then be an announcement as to when that co-circulation will stop and the old bills will no longer be of value. So persons during that period of time just go in and exchange it, go in and deposit it, get your new bills.”
He emphasised that a lot of planning and work had gone into the process.
“I can assure you that there has been a lot of thought and planning going into this process and there will be sufficient new bills to replace the old bills. This wasn’t done ‘vie ki vie’. This was done with a lot of planing and working on a need-to-know basis,” he said.
He also assured there will be no shortage of new $100 bills.
On the heels of Young’s announcement, the Central Bank yesterday afternoon issued a statement announcing the introduction of the new $100 bill as legal tender from Monday.
The bank stated that the introduction is consistent with objectives laid out in the Central Bank’s strategic plan 2016/17-2020/21 to improve the durability of the Trinidad and Tobago banknotes, upgrade the capacity to protect against forgery and allow for easier tactile recognition by the visually impaired.
“The Central Bank intends to expand the range of polymer notes to the other denominations in 2020. The new polymer $100 note will co-circulate with the existing paper-based $100 note remaining as legal tender until further notice.”
Features of the new note
According to the Central Bank, the new $100 note is “smoother than paper” and you can run your fingers at the bottom of it to feel an “X”.
When you hold the note up to the light you will see a clear window that can be seen from the front and back of the note.
You can also see the number 100 appearing in the blue print.
As you move the note around you will see areas with shimmering gold ink.
Section of the Central Bank Act which Government proposes to amend:
27. (1) The Bank, with the approval of the Minister, may on giving three months’ notice published in the Gazette call in any of its notes and coins on payment of the face value thereof and any such notes or coins with respect to which a notice has been given under this section shall, on the expiration of the notice, cease to be legal tender, but shall be redeemed at face value by the Bank upon such conditions as may be prescribed.