The Barbados Bankers’ Association (BBA) is assuring Barbadians that its systems to guard against money-laundering attempts are working, though white-collar schemes are an ongoing threat to the financial system of most countries.
BBA president Donna Wellington was responding to questions yesterday from Barbados TODAY, following the discovery of an apparent scam to lure local lawyers into depositing cheques for large sums of United States currency into the commercial banking system.
The Bar Association disclosed to attorneys-at-law last week in correspondence, that a commercial bank raised red flags after the “presentation by a number of lawyers to the bank, of a number of similar cheques”.
It appears the scheme was thwarted by alert officials in the bank, and Wellington confirmed knowledge of the attempts to move the foreign currency into the local financial system.
The BBA president said: “We have never stopped doing [surveillance] and we will not stop doing so . . . . That is par for the course for us. So, there is nothing really for us to do apart from us staying vigilant. We are mindful of the scheme, and therefore, we have vigilance out for it.”
Asked if bankers were aware of who was behind the movement of the foreign funds into Barbados, Wellington said: “In terms of following who is behind it, that is not our job. Our job is to make sure that when our clients come in, that we can identify the source of funds, and that it is legitimate, and that we do our work.”
The senior banking executive added: “The police have their job to do and the Fraud Squad has their job to do; we have our job to do and the lawyers have their jobs to do too.”
Wellington stressed the importance of attorneys-at-law making themselves aware of attempts to launder funds, “staying mindful of that, so that they do not get caught in any web”.
She added: “When it comes to us, we will ensure that we understand persons on both sides of the equation.”
The BBA president made it clear that these kinds of white-collar crimes were pervasive and were not unique to Barbados or the Caribbean region.
“Fraud is everywhere,” she said. “Don’t think that this is a Barbados-only thing. This happens all over the world, every day, all day long. It is not that there is something special about us. People will always try things.”
Questioned on the ability of local commercial banks to identify and stop these schemes, Wellington said: “We have always done our job where that is concerned. We are regulated and . . . [regulators] check to make sure we are doing our jobs. We have our own systems in place that look for non-compliant persons and we will continue to do our job . . . . It is the police that has to ferret out the person who is responsible and bring the person to justice. We will do our part.” (IMC1)