Money launderers, drug traffickers, gangsters and other underworld figures are attempting to exchange their “dirty money” with the assistance of legitimate businessmen by offering them a fee to do the transaction. This illicit activity is being confirmed by high ranking law enforcement officers and senior financial sources as the country phases out the old $100 note to the new polymer note that will become legal tender on January 1.
“There is a real concern that businessmen are obtaining illicit funds and underworld figures are willing to take a hit and are offering these businessmen $20 on every $100 to get the money into the system. This is something we are actively monitoring,” said a high ranking law enforcement official involved in investigating white-collar crime and tracking the movement of dirty money.
“With the December 31 deadline approaching we are seeing certain patterns to suggest this,” a senior financial source added.
They warned that anyone caught in this illicit practice is liable under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Well placed intelligence sources told Guardian Media that in recent months police had detained several persons with large sums of TT and US counterfeit currency. Foreign nationals were also held and apparatus that appeared to be for printing money had been recovered.
“We were told that the machine seems to be able to print almost flawless bills,” the source said.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, contacted for comment, said he had “no knowledge about this.” But a high ranking law enforcement official who is familiar with white-collar criminal investigations said: “to change the notes so quickly there must have been something to have triggered this.”
“The information seems to be top-secret,” another senior law enforcement source said.
A senior source in the financial sector wondered why the government was quick to make the changes within three weeks when the polymer $50 note was introduced over six months.
National Security Minister Stuart Young, who last week announced the change in the $100 bills, would only say it was a way to curb money laundering and stamp out organised crime.