On Thursday, June 24, legislators greenlighted an amendment to give the Financial Investigation Agency (FIA) more teeth, as it gets set to be evaluated by the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog – the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) next year.
Attorney General, Hon. Dawn Smith, moved the motion in the House of Assembly for the Financial Investigation Agency (Amendment) Act 2021 that would effect necessary amendments to the FIA Act 2003.
She explained that the tweaks will update and streamline the provisions of the existing Act.
“In particular, the Bill aims to empower the FIA to enable it to better perform in meeting the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFAT) obligations attributable to it in readiness for the next Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) mutual evaluation of the Virgin Islands
which is currently slated for 2022,” she said.
The AG added, “Mr. Speaker, in essence, the Bill introduces new definitions relating to money laundering, terrorism and terrorist financing and proliferation financing to better articulate these functions of the FIA. The Bill also defines a financial institution, designated non-financial business and profession and non-profit organization to map out the FIA’s jurisdiction over these entities in defined circumstances. In addition, Mr. Speaker, the Bill redefines the roles and function of the FIA to accord fully with those in the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).”
The Attorney General also informed that the FIA’s supervisory powers in relations to designated non-financial business and professions are outlined.
She said those powers extend to the non-profit organizations, but in relation to those that are considered to pose money laundering, terrorist financing or proliferation financing risks as generally most non-profit organizations are viewed as presenting a low risk in that regard.
“In order to ensure the effectiveness of the FIA as required under the Financial Action Taskforce recommendation, the institution is being given reasonable powers to better execute its mandate through the process of requesting relevant documents and information, examining persons under oath including before a magistrate, issuing the necessary directives, taking enforcement action as considered necessary and compounding an offence instead of taking the route of prosecution before the court,” the AG outlined.
The overarching aim is to strengthen the functioning and efficiency of the FIA to deliver on behalf of the Virgin Islands
some of the enforcement and international cooperation obligations outlined in the FATF 40 recommendations, she added.
“It is believed that the amendment outlined in the Bill will provide the necessary regime for a more efficient and effective FIA in the Virgin Islands
,” she surmised.
Minister for Transportation, Works and Utilities Hon. Kye Rymer, Minister for Health and Social Development Hon. Carvin Malone, Opposition Leader Hon. Marlon Penn, as well as Premier and Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie
voiced their supported for the amendments.
The Bill went into a committee of the whole house, read a third time and passed without amendments.