By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
WASHINGTON, USA — In a post published last week by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on its website, the IMF’s general counsel, Rhoda Weeks-Brown, claimed that a global bank that had left the Caribbean due to correspondent banking concerns had recently decided to come back and re-engage the Caribbean but gave no details of the name of the bank, which Caribbean country it left, or any other particulars of the nature of business or anything that would substantiate the claims in the statement.
The published piece, titled: “Cleaning Up: Countries are advancing efforts to stop criminals from laundering their trillions”, Weeks-Brown wrote: “And in the Caribbean, where the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships is a critical concern, we convened international banks and their local counterparts to foster bilateral cooperation in addressing information gaps and meeting regulatory expectations. One global bank that had left the region has now decided to re-establish ties with some local banks.”
When asked for clarification of the content and background of the claims made Weeks-Brown, particularly which bank, which Caribbean country/ies it left and which Caribbean country/ies it is re-engaging, the IMF’s Media Relations Team responded on Tuesday saying: “Thank you for your email and interest. Due to confidentiality considerations, we will not be able to share the name of the global bank. Appreciate your understanding.”
Weeks-Brown’s submission was a part of the IMF’s Finance and Development’s (FD) monthly magazine and their recent issue dedicated to cleaning up “Dirty Money”.
Caribbean News Now reached out to Morvin Williams of the Financial Services and Regulatory Commission (FSRC) in Antigua and Barbuda relative to what the IMF had published and he advised that the correspondent bank that the IMF “may” have meant was Bank of America (BofA).
Williams said that BofA left the Belize territory in 2014 over correspondent banking issues, but never left the region entirely and still had a small footprint in other jurisdictions
BofA still facilitates US dollar transfers for the St Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment programme (CIP) but how long this will last remains to be seen in the light of the recently exposed systemic fraud and abuse of the programme.
The major clearing banks in the Caribbean: Scotia Bank, Royal Bank of Canada and First Caribbean, are all still actively operating in various jurisdictions in the region.
However, Scotia Bank announced late last year that it is leaving nine English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries as a result of internal consolidation and is in the process of selling its business in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Maarten and St Vincent and the Grenadines to Republic Bank of Trinidad and Tobago
Scotia Bank still has presence in several other Caribbean countries, including The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda and Jamaica, with no indication of a further pull out from these jurisdictions.
While the additional background information has shed some light on what the IMF and Weeks-Brown “may” have meant, it is nevertheless unusual that a high-profile international agency like the IMF would make such vague statements without being able to substantiate them when called upon to do so, especially statements that can have several interpretations and negative repercussions that the IMF says it is in the business of mitigating against.