UNFOUNDED accusations of criminal financial activity by foreign policymakers resulting in Caribbean banks being avoided by international correspondents will be prioritized when Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley visits Washington, USA , next week.
Rowley announced yesterday that he is due to leave for the US capital next Sunday and will be there all of next week.
During that time, he is to meet with US government officials who were ‘directly involved’ in the issue, he said, adding that the ability of Caricom banks to conduct international business was ‘critical’ to economies. local.
The Prime Minister was speaking at a press conference at the VIP Lounge at Piarco International Airport, after returning from the opening of the Roundtables on Risk Reduction and Correspondent Banking in Barbados.
The forum was chaired by Maxine Waters, US Congresswoman and Chair of the House Financial Services Committee. During talks in Barbados, Rowley said Caricom should be heard on the impact on its financial development of accusations that local banks were involved in or open to activities such as terrorist financing and money laundering. . Rowley noted yesterday that T&T, in particular, had been accused of adapting to “deleterious” offshore banking.
“Of course we are not,” the prime minister said.
He said decisions about Caricom banks were made by people who weren’t listening and that Caricom had deemed the issue important. He said a small Caribbean country, which was not independent and was in the guise of a large European country, had seen all but one of its banks cut.
Foreign correspondent banks, which were necessary for local banks to carry out their transactions, were threatened with fines of millions for doing business with banks found not to comply with certain requirements, he said.
Work began in 2019 to move the issue forward, but that was stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.
Caricom returned to the issue because it was impacting national economies and budgets, he said.
He noted the presence of some agencies linked to Wednesday’s talks with Waters, including Wells Fargo and MoneyGram. Rowley said the issue may not be seen as relevant to households, but related to the ability to conduct banking activities, such as cashing checks or transferring money.
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The Prime Minister said “while we support the demand that international funding not be available to terrorists and that money laundering is a scourge which must not be encouraged”, Caricom wondered “if we were in fact qualified to be so labelled”.
He said that over time it was found that the “goal posts” were moved for Caricom, as fast as countries were able to meet certain requirements.
Rowley later said:
“Because they don’t talk to us like they should, or before they figure out what we’re guilty of. We find ourselves either penalized or on the verge of being penalized.
He went on to say that “this is precisely what they are accusing us of in Caricom, we know and we see that they are important companies in the economies of developed countries”. Rowley said “they say this kind of activity is for us” but if Caricom countries get involved they will be charged with money laundering and terrorist financing and will be allowed to “walk out” themselves- same.
He said correspondent banks were staying away because they felt the activities of Caricom banks were too small to risk being penalised.
Rowley said “Americans listened and we made our case” and “a number of decisions were made.” He recalled a commitment from Congresswoman Waters that congressional hearings would be held on the matter, but that was delayed by Covid-19. Although he couldn’t give a date, Rowley said it will still happen.
He said no action can be taken against the Caribbean based on “how we look” and perceived terrorist links.