The Financial Intelligence Unit is seeking to improve their investigative functions with the help of the Customs and Excise Department. This afternoon, the two agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will make the reporting of the international transportation of currency and monetary instruments. Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Joy Grant says while they do not expect this move to eliminate money laundering actions immediately, they believe it will help in the longer run.
“We will never sit here as FIU staff and say that by putting these things in place that it will be immediately that we are going to be getting all the people who are doing illicit things, actually that is not so much the point of this specific example that I gave. However the MOU is much deeper and wider in scope than just that in that we will be sharing additional information and the only by collecting information over time and following the trends and analysis that we will be able to say with some certainty that an individual or company is involved in activities that don’t fit in with their profile of business.”
Comptroller of Customs, Victor Recinos, told the media that this change will make life easier for the legitimate business person. In addition, it will allow both FIU and Customs to collect data and gaining intelligence on the inflows and outflows of monies.
“Making reporting easier will make the person that wants to do legitimate trade have life a little easier. The cumbersome procedures cause a lot of delays in the business world. If we can minimize that and allow you to carry out legitimate business reporting as efficiently as possible it will also start point out those who want to go into illegitimate activities. We customs and FIU we deal with risk management using intelligence and information is not intelligence, you have to process and analyze that to get intelligence to act on. To be irrational at sometimes we may have held someone without having analyzed their whole financial background is not a good thing. For us to have partnered with the FIU to ensure that we are sharing and analyzing the date on financial movements, on inflows and outflows of money we will be able to see whether those persons are carrying on legitimate business and if there is a legitimate way you made the money or are moving the money that is what this is for.”
According to Ambassador Grant, additional responsibility is being placed on the Customs Department with them being forced to be alert of the traffic at the country’s border points and ports of entry and exit. The discretion of the Customs officers will also be required on a case by case basis ranging from business to medical.
“My understanding was that really a lot of the responsibility now will come and lie with customs. If they know that it is a legitimate transaction then there is no need to refer to us and in that case I think there will be letters that would make this happen so I don’t see a delay there at all. If there is some suspicion then it triggers another level and then you will be told that we have to do more checks and that will delay you but then that would not be a legitimate, most of time it won’t be legitimate then but the responsibility now moves from the FIU to the customs to use their judgment for a yes or no.”
“We have 177 customs officers at work twenty four hours a day. The FIU has a small staff that works Monday to Friday. We have trade data, we have officers who know people and thier past. Belize is a small country so if you have a sick relative more than likely customs knows. What is important in the financial circle is your source of funds, where you got the money from. If you will be able to prove to customs that your money came legitimately from a bank account or a legitimate source you have no problem. If you cannot prove your source of funds then you will have to be redirected to the FIU to explain to them where you got the funds.”
Belize’s Financial Intelligence Unit was established in July 2002. This agreement is the first of several MOUs that are being negotiated between the Government of Belize and the FIU.