Bermuda Post

Monday, Apr 12, 2021

Trinidad & Tobago: FIU uncovers $27B in suspicious transactions

Trinidad & Tobago: FIU uncovers $27B in suspicious transactions

A total of 1,831 Suspicious Transaction and Suspicious Activity reports worth $27 billion were received over 2019 to 2020 by the Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago – the most it has received in its 10-year history.
The increase has been attributed to increased fraudulent activity – including resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic – and demonitisation of the cotton $100 notes.

However, there was an 88 per cent decrease in Suspicious Transaction/Activity reports on suspected terrorism financing, apparently due to the collapse of the ISIS terrorist group.

The information came yesterday from the FIUTT’s report for October 2019 to September 2020. It was laid in Parliament by Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who spoke on it.

In the reporting period between 2019-2020, the FIUTT adjusted its supervisory activities due to the challenges of COVID-19.

The national efforts to reduce the potential impact of the pandemic led to the temporary closure of business in high-risk sectors such as private members’ clubs, vehicle sales and real state. But supervisory and monitoring activities continued with the necessary adjustments.

For this reporting period, 329 entities registered with the FIUTT – bringing the total number of registrants to 3,337 at September, 2020. This represented a 10 per cent increase from the previous reporting period.

During the reporting period in the area of financial intelligence – and for the first time – it was noted that the FIUTT received a total of 1,831 Suspicious Transaction Reports/Suspicious Activity Reports (STR/SAR).

This was the most it has received throughout its ten years of existence. This represented an 80 per cent increase from the previous reporting period.

Also, during the reporting period, the FIUTT noted a 141 per cent increase in (STR/SAR) submissions from financial institutions and an 80 per cent increase in the submissions from listed businesses, compared to the previous year.

The total monetary value of the 1,831 STR/SAR reports received over 2019-2020 amounted to approximately $27 billion. The figure was $1.7 billion in the previous reporting period.

Of the 1,831 reports received, 1,517 were completed transactions worth $884.4 million.

But 314 attempted transactions were worth $26 billion. The main reason for this was customers approaching banks with suspected fraudulent contracts and pending incoming wire transfers.

On the overall increases in suspicious transaction/activity reports, the FIUTT’s report stated, “When compared to the previous reporting period, the significant increase in both the number and value of these attempted suspicious transactions can be directly attributed to the following:

“Increase in fraudulent activity – Numerous customers being scammed with fake/fraudulent foreign contracts to engage in business expecting millions of US dollars or Euros to be wired to their local bank account.

“Also, the COVID pandemic resulted in an increase in fraudulent activity being perpetrated against people. Transactions that were flagged and stopped included numerous third party transactions being attempted between unconnected parties under the guise of payments for “gifts,” “blessings” or sou-sou.”

Also contributing to the increase was the old $100 bill demonitisation process where several transactions were flagged and stopped.
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