NTA: FIU statement ‘misleading’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

NTA political leader Gary Griffith. FILE PHOTO –

THE National Transformation Alliance (NTA), led by former police commissioner Gary Griffith, has criticised the Financial Investigations Unit’s (FIU) claim on Wednesday that it does not act without lawful cause.

In its release, the FIU also set out its process for  requesting information from financial institutions and listed businesses.

The FIU was on the losing end of a lawsuit filed by Griffith and his wife Nicole Dyer-Griffith, who challenged the legality of a request by the unit’s acting director Nigel Stoddard to several financial institutions for information on their accounts.

The Griffiths said Stoddard did not have any suspicious transaction or suspicious activity report (STR and SAR) from any financial institution to justify his requests.

Justice Devindra Rampersad quashed the FIU acting director’s requests and prohibited him from using any information he may have already received. He said Stoddard acted in excess of his jurisdiction and his requests were an abuse of power.

NTA general secretary Tim Teemal, in a statement on Thursday, said the FIU’s statement was misleading.

“The FIU failed to provide a justifiable reason for attempting to access the bank accounts of numerous individuals, contrary to their release.

“The FIU had multiple opportunities to justify its actions in court but failed to provide any evidence,” Teemal said.

He said the suggestion the unit had lawful cause to access multiple accounts simultaneously was “highly implausible and could lead to further legal action against them.”

In his ruling, Rampersad acknowledged that the FIU’s acting director was “hamstrung” by statute to make any public statement of the existence of either an STR or SAR.

However, the NTA said the “attempt to hide behind confidentiality raises concerns.” It said this implied that the unit “may not present a case and provide evidence to justify their actions if sued, potentially costing taxpayers tens of millions.”