Barbados joins list of countries challenging veracity of US State Dept report

Barbados joins list of countries challenging veracity of US State Dept report

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Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite

By Caribbean News Now contributor

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Barbados has joined the chorus of criticism leveled at last month’s 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) published by the US Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, which claimed that Barbados was among a number of countries that the US regards as major money laundering countries.

Page 42 of the INCSR Volume II states that “narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and firearms trafficking are major sources of illicit funds in [Barbados]. In addition to the use of financial institutions, money is laundered through the purchase of real estate, vehicles, vessels, and jewelry as well as through a variety of businesses.”

Attorney general and minister of home affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, pointed out that this finding is “misleading” and in respect of Barbados merely cited “a number of generic methods of money laundering that may be found in any country”.

There is nothing to support the view that they are at proportions that would have a significant impact on the local economy, or cause the faintest ripple in the international financial sector, Brathwaite said.

He acknowledged that the illegal drugs trade is the crime that is of greatest concern in the country.

“This trade gives birth to other criminal activity. For instance, it is believed that the importation and use of unlicensed firearms is closely connected to the drugs trade,” he said.

However, there is a big gap between potential and actuality, he noted, adding that policies and programmes are in place to ensure that this potential never becomes reality.

Brathwaite emphasised that Barbados is neither a producer of drugs for export, nor does it manufacture guns, contrary to the State Department’s assertion that “narcotics trafficking… and firearms trafficking are major sources of illicit funds in the country”.

The rejection of the INCSR by Barbados mirrors that of Antigua and Barbuda and Nevis.

Following an official statement in March challenging the report in its entirety, last week Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders, questioned its accuracy at a meeting with officials of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

In particular, he questioned a similar unsubstantiated claim in the State Department report that that firearms trafficking is a “major source of illicit funds in the country”.

Sanders said: “There is no evidence of firearms trafficking in Antigua and Barbuda; not a single gun is manufactured in our territory; and our crime rate, particularly gun-related crime is extremely low by any standard.”

He also stated that the onshore banks in his country are examined and regulated by the reputable and independent Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), and its offshore banks are prohibited by law from accepting cash deposits.

“In these circumstances,” he said, “it would be impossible for untraceable money from firearms trafficking to enter or leave the banking system, and, if it did, it would require the complicity of overseas banks, which is highly unlikely.”

Earlier this month, Heidi-Lynn Sutton, the financial services regulator in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA), refuted as “unfounded and misleading” claims made by the State Department that “financial oversight in Nevis remains problematic due to the federation allowing the creation of anonymous accounts, strong bank secrecy laws, and overall lack of transparency of beneficial ownership of legal entities.”

According to Sutton, the INCSR “delivers an attack on Nevis with allegations that are unfounded and misleading,” pointing out that measures have been in place since 2009 to mitigate money laundering and terrorist financing risks/threats to the financial services industry in Nevis.

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