In April, Prime Minister John Briceno attended the Caribbean Financial Access Roundtable meetings as the CARICOM Chair. Regional leaders met with the Chair of the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Congresswoman Maxine Waters. One of the topics discussed was the lack of correspondent banking caused by de-risking activities of US banks. But as Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson explained, the US Government cannot instruct banks to do business with a specific country. The media asked PM Briceno and Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay about it today.
Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “We find it curious that the Caribbean let’s speak about the Caribbean is being pressured, money laundering, anti terrorism but it was curious that once the sanctions were announced against Russia the billions of dollars that they say is the proceeds of money laundering were found in London, in New York, in Geneva. We found it very curious that the planes and the boats and the property they seized were all in Paris, or on the French Riviera, in New York apartments, in London mansions. Those are the proceeds according to them of money laundering in the developed world in the very banks that are saying they’re not going to provide services to Caribbean banks. The double standard is a bit difficult to stomach.”
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “And as I mentioned to Brian at our meeting we feel like a ping pong ball because they’re saying that it’s not them it’s the banks, we go to the banks they say it’s not them it’s Congress and it seems that no one is prepared to make a definitive decision in trying to resolve this problem. In the meeting with Maxine Waters what she was suggesting is to hold a Congressional Committee meeting and to invite CARICOM leaders and to go and to talk about it and she’s hoping that eventually she could have a carve out for the Caribbean to see how could have these banks provide services to the region. Because as we pointed out that there is also a more responsibility from the banks that you just can’t cherry-pick your customers but you need to provide services to everyone and they have been having banking relationships with us for decades and there has not been any serious problems and even today the banks will tell you well we haven’t seen anything but because of the laws that were enacted in congress the fines are extremely high and it’s not worth their risking being penalized for tens of millions of dollars.”