Cops probing several matters of unexplained wealth—AG

Police are actively pursuing several further matters under the Civil Assets Forfeiture law – the Unexplained Wealth law – to have certain people in T&T explain how they have achieved their wealth.

Also, the success of upcoming law to give Tobago autonomy will lie in the hands of the Opposition whose support will be needed to pass it.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi spoke about the matters in Parliament yesterday during the 2021 Budget debate.

Under the Civil Assets Forfeiture law, where the police, Board of Inland Revenue or Customs have suspicions on a matter, probes can be sought where someone’s total wealth exceeds their lawfully obtained wealth.

It also covers property gained through criminal activity.

Al-Rawi told the Parliament yesterday, “I want to point out a very important operational function in the Civil Asset Forfeiture law. By use of the Unexplained Wealth order provision we’ve had matters go before the court.”

“Unexplained Wealth orders are in the system and I am in receipt of a desiccated report at arms length that we have several more matters for Unexplained Wealth orders about to hit the system.”

“And I do believe this is legislative provision as operationalised will sober T&T.”

The new matters that will arise under the Unexplained Wealth law will add to two matters which were already ongoing. Al-Rawi later told Guardian Media, “Without any breach of disclosure or specifics, I can say police are actively looking at several more matters to be filed under this law.”

In his Parliamentary contribution, Al-Rawi indicated that Tobago’s autonomy “independence” law as he called it, will require UNC support for passage. He said the law which requires special majority votes will be brought to Parliament and, “It’s only with UNC support can that law be passed,” he noted.

Al-Rawi said solutions to Tobago’s land issues are also coming with a division in his ministry which will handle such matters.

The AG said T&T has been removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list and this country had received international praise on this. As a result, T&T and Caricom will be taking a unified approach toward tackling the European Union and European Council in November to remove T&T and other regional states from the EU’s blacklist.

Last year, T&T, the US and other states, including in Caricom, were blacklisted by the EU as location risks for money laundering and terrorist financing. That could affect local banking operations. The blacklisting is being rejected. He said aggressive steps would be taken on the matter as T&T achieved every target in the FATF regime which the EU/EC requested.

“We cannot be allowed to de-bank and to de-risk ourselves this way,” he added.

Al Rawi assured that use of electronic bracelets for domestic violence offenders will begin soon. On recent reports about long waits for death certificates he said certificates are available from his ministry based on walk-in requests.

The Public Procurement Regulator is also sending him input for standards for draft regulations for Procurement Law, he said. This will be dealt with immediately after Budget debate.

Proposed law on T&T’s Revenue Authority plus on Local Government reform, campaign finance reform and the gaming sector will be brought to Parliament.

The IMF identified T&T as the only unregulated country where gaming was concerned. The Cyber Crime Bill is being reformulated. Legislation will also be brought to protect witnesses and for admissibility of computerized information in trials. This is to curb white-collar crime.

Special arrangements are being made to have court marshalls sit with witnesses at a St Vincent Street location in order not to breach COVID congregating protocols.

Al-Rawi also corrected statements by UNC MP Vandana Mohit who said the Finance Minister indicated increase of retirement age to 65 was coming. Al-Rawi said that wasn’t being done but the issue was flagged as both the UNC and PNM Government had to look at plans in the face of declining birth rate and increasing longevity issues. Mohit had also said the Budget was “mammaguy and mathematics.”

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