In last night’s newscast, we told you about the press conference of the Financial Intelligence Unit where they shared good news about Belize’s international standing after it participated in the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s Plenary Meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Well during the press conference, the media asked the Director of the FIU, Eric Eusey, about the Titan Securities- one of the firms reportedly involved in a billion dollar money laundering scheme. In September of last year, police officers and the FIU descended on the Matalon Building where Titan Securities listed at its address. On that night, the FIU, went in and confiscated all of the company’s documents and records at the request of the FBI. After the bust, Rohn Knowles and Kelvin Leach, the owners of the company, were at the airport when they were nabbed by policer. The matter was taken to court and the men were acquitted. Now, back then, we were unable to get an official report from the FIU- that is until yesterday when the Director, Eric Eusey, explained why the FIU is not media friendly.
Eric Eusey – Director, FIU
“Belize has a mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States and under that treaty when the US makes a request which is legal for their system Belize is obligated to respond and assess. The request under this treaty was to assist in a search and seizure of records for Titan and Unicorn that was the extent of it. We were not aware which companies or which individuals were being targeted until the day the operation unfolded. So the action by the attorney general’s ministry which is the legal entity to carry out the enforcement was quite legal. The issue was before the courts to convince the court that A, these entities were involved with money laundering and other activities but the FIU was not given sufficient time to make a case so the courts ruled that there was not a case to restrain the funds of these entities. So that was the reason why that was said. In addition to that normally with the individual cases the FIU does not discuss those or make a press release on that, those have to be kept confidential in order to assist the investigation to succeed so while you might say “Well we are having a press conference today the FIU wears many hats and one of the hats is that we must be the lead agency to enhance the safety regime but also if a neutral legal assistance comes in and the attorney general requests the assistance of the FIU under the law we are obligated to give that assistance. They are claiming damages but it doesn’t automatically mean that they will succeed. The attorney general’s ministry and the FIU are vigorously fighting and resisting those accusations and we have representation in the court and we abided by the laws. We act strictly under the law. An entity might not like certain activities when it happens but we have a legal basis on which to make our actions.
The Financial Intelligence Unit was also involved in another issue that got a lot of news time and that is the Immigration Scandal involving Elvin Penner. The FIU was called in to do their investigation into the matter. During that time, Marilyn Williams was the Director and the current Director was unable to confirm what happened to that investigation.
Eric Eusey – Director, FIU
“There could well have been an investigation but you have to understand when I took over as director the issue with Belize’s standing was of the highest importance and we had to address that so most of the effort of the FIU was done in that regard so we didn’t have time to do a lot of prosecutions and things in that area but now the jurisdiction is on firm footing. Going forward you will see more of those coming up. In respect to immigration there could have been an investigation but like I said I personally haven’t had time to look at the file it could be there but the FIU investigations and enquires are in the thousands.”