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Does the FIU investigate enrichment of politicians?

During our interview with the FIU’s Director Kent Clare we took the opportunity to ask him on the mandate of the unit and how it functions when it comes to investigating financial irregularities.  Love News asked him specifically on the cases of William Danny Mason and Lev Dermen who both were funding John Saldivar’s political activities.

Kent Clare, Director, Financial Intelligence Unit: “It’s a very wide mandate. I mean the FIU has been challenged in the past to keep up with all of the responsibilities because the FIU Act says that it is mandated to interdict financial crime but it’s not just investigating it’s developing preventative methods and so on to ensure that these things don’t happen. If you were to try and chase every indication of a financial crime we don’t have the resources to do that I’m telling you, every FIU will tell you we don’t have the resources to follow to the end every complaint.”

Reporter: Did you have any kind of input when it came to for example I can think of two cases there were several allegations of major spending when it comes to William Mason and politicians around the country. There were several allegations when it came to Lev Dermen and monies being circulated within Belize from Lev Dermen did the FIU play any kind of role or pick up any kind of responsibility looking into those financial irregularities that were being thrown about ?

Kent Clare, Director, Financial Intelligence Unit: “Well I think the Commissioner of Police would have commented before on these so it’s not anything that – general the FIU or any kind of intel organization such as ours would generally not comment on cases but there are times when the public has to have the assurance that every resource of government is being used to deal with what might be worrisome situations and in both, the three cases that you mentioned actually the FIU was involved looking at different things because you have got to look — in some instances the police and other agencies will come to us and say “We’re looking at this particular angle and there might be some kind of acquisitive crime besides the other predicate you know besides murder or corruption or so on there might be some other financial angle and so you are being asked to assist — and we assist in various ways — primarily through looking at financial records and so on but yeah in all cases we would have.”

According to Director Clare when it comes to investigating the enrichment of politicians it is not easy.  Clare noted that there are systems needed in order to have these investigations worth carrying out.

Kent Clare, Director, Financial Intelligence Unit: The FIU was a part of a delegation that went to Jamaica I think it was in 2018 when we were very much involved with the UNCAC issue and we were trying to establish some of the best practices that they had in place in Jamaica. And so we came back we did a report and we had some advice and I’ll tell you that there’s always a focus on the politicians and there should be indeed but it goes beyond that. You just can’t focus on one set and you realize that there are often going to be other people involved. Listen think about it,  if I am a politician am I going to always be so crazy enough to have all of these assets – and I’m a politician and I’m a crooked politician- am I going to be putting all of these assets in my name considering under the Prevention of Corruption Act I have to make these declarations and so on and these can be used to prosecute me ? So obviously it’s a problem that’s wider in terms of the way persons would have had assets maybe put in the names of relatives or you know companies and that sort of thig. So what we need we just can’t have a focus on politicians but we have to look at the whole complex the connectivity in society and fix the system, create the laws for example that allows FIU and the police to have convictions. One of the things that we have been having deep conversations about within the last year and a half and especially within the last three or four months has to do with a thing called Civil Asset Recovery. It doesn’t require a conviction, you can get back- it’s not enough to send people to jail you have to get back the resources that they would have taken whether it’s a politician, whether it’s a petty criminal all of these acquisitive crimes you need to get back the proceeds of crime but that requires building an infrastructure, not talking about this and that or the other. So we had a gentleman by the name of Alex Ferguson by from CARICOM and CARICOM is pushing this issue because it’s all across the Caribbean, pushing this issue significantly so we have developed an asset recovery forum within one of our working groups and making some recommendations for amendments to the law but I hope that answered your question. It’s not looking strictly at this person right now with the laws as we have them it’s developing and looking at a wider set of persons.”

Interestingly, the FIU is understaffed which hinders them from fully investigating all reports reaching their office.

Kent Clare, Director, Financial Intelligence Unit: “If it’s our investigation or if we are supporting somebody else’s investigation, if we’re supporting somebody else’s it all depends on what they request. So some organization local and foreign will come to us and say “We’re looking at a murder and we think this also might have happened can you get bank records?, Can you get information dealing with ultimate beneficial ownership? Who is the owner behind the natural person that we’re the rope ends ?” so it all depends on what organization is requesting. Now if we are undertaking, we have our own case and we’re going to try and take some of these cases to court we’re the complaining agency so we’re gonna have a full investigation, we’re gonna do the same things like police because we have police officers working here so they’re gonna have to build their cases and look at the evidence and looking at what would convince a court to convict somebody and that’s very important. The legal system is not challenged strictly by cases not coming to court but by cases not being properly prosecuted, by not having persons you can put as evidence to convince a judge or a magistrate as to your argument and to get a conviction. So there’s a lot involved in that I mean when we take on a case sometimes it might take- I came to the FIU and I found certain cases here and it wasn’t until maybe a year after that some of those things were resolved and sometimes we get real impatient but you have to understand that taking a case to court is not the end game it’s to get a conviction. So that’s basically how it works.”