The Financial Intelligence Unit and The Income Tax Department have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that promises to strengthen the fight against money laundering, tax evasion and terrorism. The new director of the FIU, Kent Clare spoke of the newly signed MOU.
“What we hope to achieve here is more than just the FIU under its anti money laundering laws and the FIU act and so on requesting information from our counterparts. What we are seeking to achieve here is a more advanced and organized collaboration specifically on things like the development of legislation. Before we sign one of the things I need to bring to the public’s attention is the fact that we would hope to develop legislation to criminalize tax evasion in Belize. Tax evasion is a predicate offence to money laundering and so it’s not enough to just say that , you have to demonstrate that by having that kind of validity in your laws. So the MOU today we are very pleased to have this be signed with the commissioner and thereafter we will proceed to develop the cooperation.”
The FIU has signed memorandums such as this one with the Customs Department and the Police Department, Clare explains some of the elements of this Memorandum that makes it different.
“The MOU provides for a number of possibilities that previously didn’t exist in the cooperation that we previously had, you would have arrangements for policy making, for formal exchange of information and of course for training and technical assistance so this will be across the board with all the MOUse you would have that same kind of arrangement. While we had meetings and we had information sharing and so on we are looking at deliverables more in terms of the numbers of joint audits, the numbers of cases that we can classify as either high risk cases and ultimately getting convictions for the things that at this point in time we have on the books but are not really demonstrated through actual convictions in court. So the MOU then between customs and income tax and the police would in effect would be the same kind of agreements.”
Clare also explained why it is necessary to strengthen Belize’s laws against financing of terrorism stating that Belize is prone to becoming a place for terrorism financing.
“Belize simply because of its juxtaposition where it sits and because of its porous borders something which we cannot do anything about, simply Belize being where we are exposes us to a level of the unknown and it is costly and incumbent on us to monitor and not taking anything for granted even we have been known as a country which we all get along and we have a laid back atmosphere however the institutions that are regulators must be careful to protect what we have always enjoyed and I would certainly agree that we have to be focusing on that because the possibility of it happening is certainly there.”
Clare stated that the new memorandum comes as a recommendation from the Financial Act Task Force (FATF) to created information exchange channels with counterparts in the country but not as a response to any external threat.