Watson Duke. – FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB
THE Foreign and Caricom Affairs Ministry dismissed claims by Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader Watson Duke that the Prime Minister’s approach to working with United States authorities to address alleged money laundering and terrorism financing in Trinidad and Tobago.
Duke made his claims in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Dr Rowley has been in Washington, DC, since Monday, holding talks with several US government officials, lawmakers and members of Congress on a wide range of issues, including de-risking and correspondent banking. Rowley is also scheduled to meet with US Vice-President Kamala Harris to discuss all of these issues.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the ministry said Duke’s claims were “erroneous, libellous and no doubt seep from a well of ignorance of the interaction to which he referred and of matters of international engagement.”
Rowley has has discussions with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the US House Financial Services Committee on De-Risking and Correspondent Banking, since 2019.
The ministry said Rowley was part of a delegation of Caricom leaders that met with a US congressional delegation led by Waters for the roundtable discussion on de-risking and correspondent banking in Barbados on April 20. Rowley’s active and responsible advocacy on this matter, it added, has been public knowledge since 2019.
Last March, as Caricom chairman, Rowley met with Waters to continue discussions about de-risking and correspondent banking.
The ministry said the April 20 US-Caricom meeting in Barbados was “one of the important interactions between the two sides for the fostering of agreement on the part of the US to review the issues surrounding the matter.”
Arising out of that meeting, the ministry said the Caricom and US delegations “acknowledged widely that the region (Caricom) was being targeted for the perceived risk of doing business rather than actual evidenced risk.”
The meeting had several outcomes which are beneficial to TT. The ministry identified these as agreement on a US congressional hearing on the impact of de-risking and correspondent banking, creation of an annual Caribbean-US banking forum; a proposal for a feasibility study for a pilot project for a consortium bank model; and a proposal to develop an examiner training academy in the US.
The ministry asked how such consistent high-level engagement pursued by Rowley over the last three years translated into a “lack of enthusiasm” by TT to co-operate with the US.
The existence of the multi-stakeholder Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT) Committee, the ministry continued, has led to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removing TT from its list of jurisdictions requiring increased monitoring as a result of strategic deficiencies in their regimes to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing
The ministry also said Government has passed several pieces of legislation, such as amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act, to address these matters.