A cache of leaked documents is suggesting that some 55 transactions involving more than $110 million among Barbados, the United States and nine other countries over a period of time were flagged as potentially suspicious by US authorities.
The report, released late September by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), identified at least two local banks and two financial firms as either receiving or sending millions of dollars on behalf of clients between 2013 and 2015, despite identifying those transactions as suspicious.
However, President of the Barbados Bankers Association (BBA) Donna Wellington is giving the assurance that the banking industry remained committed to maintaining an effective Anti-Money Laundering (AML) programme designed to “deter, detect and report suspicious activity, including the misuse of its products, services and delivery channels related to money laundering or terrorist financing, bribery, corruption, or other such activities”.
In fact, Wellington told Barbados TODAY that all banks have a duty to flag any suspicious transactions as part of their reporting obligations.
“The industry adheres to all applicable laws and regulatory requirements in Barbados, including the guidance provided by the Barbados Financial Intelligence Unit,” she said.
According to the leaked documents, known as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Files, some US$58.4 million of potentially suspicious transactions flowed into Barbados, while US$51.9 million flowed from the country.
While the transactions do not necessarily establish any criminal misconduct or other wrongdoing, it offers “an unprecedented overview of how money flagged as suspicious, and in some cases linked to corruption, fraud, sanctions, evasion or other crimes, flow around the globe via networks of correspondent banks”, the leaked document said.
“The map only displays cases where sufficient details about both the originator and the beneficiary banks were available, and is designed to illustrate how potentially dirty money flows from country to country around the world via US-based banks. The data in this map represents a fraction of the more than US$2 trillion worth of transactions found in the FinCEN Files,” it added.
Banks are required to file reports with the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, about transactions suspected to be linked to money laundering, fraud or other illegal activities.
The report pointed to potentially suspicious transactions amounting to more than US$2 trillion between 1999 to 2017 in more than 150 countries.
The potentially suspicious transactions meant that banks moved money for people they could not identify, and in some cases, failed to file the required suspicious activity report until years after, according to the document released.
Wellington explained that all commercial banks have a duty to flag any suspicious transactions as part of their reporting obligations.
She said commercial banks have established “robust Anti Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing frameworks under which we operate and around which we engage with our regulators and, when necessary, law enforcement”.
“Our staff undergo periodic mandatory training on how to spot suspicious activity, and their responsibilities when suspicious activities have been identified,” she added.
Adding that the association was aware of the leaked report, Wellington said that “banks are prohibited from commenting publicly about suspicious activity reports. However, we take this issue very seriously and the affected banks are addressing it accordingly”.
Efforts to hear from the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) on the matter was unsuccessful up to news time.