Stepping up the fight against money laundering in Jamaica

ACCA, March 2013. Following encouragement by the international authorities, Jamaica is now increasing its controls to combat money laundering and is boosting its domestic law enforcement and recovery procedures. This report summarises a day-long conference held in Kingston in February 2013 to review where Jamaica currently stands on these issues and to test its state of readiness to go further.

Jamaica faces a significant challenge to bring its framework of anti money laundering controls into line with international standards and up to a level where crime is seen not to pay.

While progress has been made in adopting controls to address anti money laundering (AML) and countering terrorist financing (CTF) requirements, these need be applied J22 more efficiently and there needs to be a more concerted societal effort to enhance the level of vigilance against the perpetrators of financial crime.

Requirements for monitoring money laundering activities need to be extended to encompass a wider range of businesses and institutions than those already covered, in line with the expectations of the international standards issued by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Further progress in this area is, however, vital if the country is to enhance its prospects of securing inward investment, reduce its cost of capital and build a political and economic environment that is founded on trust, transparency and fair rewards for all its citizens.

These were the conclusions of a high-level conference held in Kingston, Jamaica on 14 February, organised by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in conjunction with Jamaica’s Financial Services Commission (FSC). Detailed presentations were made to about 150 delegates, explaining why money laundering is a threat to society and the economy, outlining the methods that criminals use to launder the proceeds of their crimes, describing why accountants and other groups are being brought within the regulatory framework, and specifying what the international authorities now expect national governments to do to tighten the net on those who use the financial system to strip assets of their association with criminal activities. The conference was introduced by Leon Anderson FCCA and chaired by Lorice Edwards-Brown, respectively interim chief executive and director of investigation and enforcement at the FSC. The conference spelled out the following key points.   Money laundering is essentially about making crime pay, and the easier it becomes to achieve that goal in any jurisdiction, the greater the encouragement it is likely to give to the commission of crime and the generalised undermining of law and order. Accordingly, the aim of any system of financial regulation must be to take the profit out of crime by ensuring that the process of converting ‘dirty’ money into ‘clean’ money is obstructed by the forces of justice and that, via effective and committed law enforcement action, the assets obtained by criminals are recovered and the criminals themselves prosecuted and convicted. All sections of law-abiding society stand to benefit from such enforcement.   

A joined-up approach, whereby government and its agencies are given material help by trusted intermediaries within the financial system, is now considered to be essential if the activities of criminals and money launderers are to be thwarted. Common cause must be made between regulators and regulated persons to ensure that the interests of the wider economy, as well as society itself, are properly defended. Great care needs to be taken, however, to ensure that confidence in the system is not undermined by failure to protect the security of the information supplied to the regulators: in particular, the identity of the reporters must not be divulged.   

The relevant authorities in Jamaica have already demonstrated significant progress in bringing prosecution and recovery actions under the existing legislation. That progress suggests that their prospects of making further inroads into serious criminal activity would be enhanced if more resources were extended to them, especially given the new sources of potentially useful information that will be made available to them in the near future.