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FIU Sint Maarten upgrading, urging financial and non-financial to report

Philipsburg (DCOMM) — The Financial Intelligence Unit, Sint Maarten (FIU) is in the process of not only becoming a member of the Egmont Group of FIU organizations, which at present has 140 country members, but also revising and updating its laws and increasing its operational efficiency.

“The FIU is busy upgrading itself,” said Head of FIU, Sint Maarten Ligia Stella, “We are doing what is expected of us to get Sint Maarten in full compliance with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) anti money laundering and counter terrorist financing recommendations. We are working on the elimination of the deficiencies.” Sint Maarten was evaluated by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) in 2012. The Mutual Evaluation Report of Sint Maarten came out in January 2013 and depicted deficiencies in the compliance with the FATF recommendations. Keeping the national laws up to date with anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing aspects and having an efficient FIU are amongst the FATF recommendations. Being in compliance with these recommendations is of importance for the integrity of the financial system of Sint Maarten. Non-compliance with these recommendations makes a financial system vulnerable for money laundering and terrorist financing and will ultimately isolate a country from interest of bonafide investors.

Recently, on April 25th, 2014, the amendment of the national ordinance reporting unusual transactions was approved by parliament. This is a requirement of the Egmont Group to become a member of this organization. “The reporting institutions must take their obligations seriously and always aim to safeguard the integrity of the financial system of Sint Maarten.”  

“Since the establishment of the FIU,” Stella said, “we have been working diligently on improvement of operational efficiency and establishing administrative procedures. We are ever increasing our knowledge and working collaboration with other FIUs, regionally and internationally. Once completed, the FIU St. Maarten will benefit much from the information sharing and specialized training.”

 

The FIU, under the responsibility of the Minister of Justice, is an independent government entity for the receiving, analysis and dissemination of unusual transactions reports (UTR). Once a suspicion of potential money laundering or terrorist financing arises after the analysis, the FIU reports the suspicious transactions to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

FIU has been engaging with the non-financial and financial institutions since the Netherlands Antilles period. The non-financial businesses and professions are the notaries, lawyers, accountants, tax consultants, car rental companies, jewellers, real estate agencies and administration offices. The financial institutions are the Investment administrators, Credit institutions, Investment funds, Providers of management services, Credit card companies and Credit institutions, Insurers and insurance brokers, Money remitting companies and the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

Both reporting sectors must screen their clients more diligently in accordance with the national ordinance identification when rendering services and engage more in risk-based reporting.   This means that the amount of suspicious transactions should increase related to the amount of unusual transactions that are being reported at this moment.

Not reporting unusual and/or suspicious transactions is punishable by law for which the penalty is a prison sentence of maximum 4 years. 

 

Stella said that the FIU is there to assist the financial and non-financial institutions in being in compliance with the FATF recommendations concerning anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing. This implies that the institutions must abide by the law which was established in 1996 and updated in 2010 and 2014.

Pursuant to the national ordinance reporting unusual transactions the non-financial businesses and professions fall under the supervision of the FIU. The reporting obligation of the non-financial businesses and professions was included in the national ordinance reporting unusual transactions in 2010. Under this amended law the FIU in its supervisory capacity of the non-financial businesses and professions can order fines, sanctions, and searches when the service provider is handling in breach of that law. The objective of the FIU is not to send persons to jail but to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism.

For more information, visit the FIU website: www.fiu-sxm.net.

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