FIU Director, Susan Francois
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- There was a “significant increase” in reports of suspicious financial transactions and activities believed to be linked to terrorists in Trinidad and Tobago in 2015, with more than 100 individuals suspected of participating in terrorist activity, according to the latest annual report of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
The sixth annual report of the FIU, covering the period October 2014 to September 2015, was tabled in the Senate on Tuesday, Newsday
According to FIU director, Susan Francois, in the period under review, reports of suspicious transactions linked to terrorism tripled.
“Analysis revealed that the number of reports of financial terrorism suspected of being linked to terrorism has tripled over the past year,” Francois disclosed in a statement in the report. “During this reporting period, the number of terrorism- related suspicious transaction reports/suspicious activity reports jumped from 5 in 2013/2014 to 16 in 2014/2015.”
The director said while there were 16 reports, the number of suspects identified in these reports (that is suspected terrorists and their financiers) exceeded that amount. Further, “the FIUTT has received and analysed information from other local and international sources on over 100 persons who are suspected of participating in terrorist activities.”
Francois said based on the analysis of the reports linked to suspected terrorist activity, the FIU contributed to the Egmont Group ISIL project on the issue of foreign terrorists fighters from the Western Hemisphere.
“Recent events have underscored extremists groups desire to expand the reach of their terror,” Francois stated.
The director stated that local anti- terrorism legislation makes it an offence to participate in the commission of a terrorist act, “whether committed in or outside of Trinidad and Tobago”, and to finance terrorism.
“Financing of terrorism not only funds terrorist attacks, but also helps to maintain terrorist groups, and to support their operations through the provision of living expenses, travel, training, recruitment activities and the like,” Francois stated.
Of reports of suspicious activities overall, the director stated the monetary value of such reports declined, moving from $698 million in 2013/2014 to $354 million in 2014/2015. However, under-reporting is a concern, and a verification process has been undertaken.
The director also issued a call for limits to the use of cash in the purchase of goods and services.
“It is commonly acknowledged that cash is the mainstay of criminal transactions,” Francois stated.
“Therefore, cash-intensive environments, which foster a lack of transparency in transactions, facilitate criminal activities. Thus, the FIUTT will also recommend that the authorities give serious consideration to instituting limits to the use of cash for the purchase of goods and services, as well as in the collection of revenue at government offices," she said.