Wednesday, October 28, 2020

World Bank to assist St. Maarten with anti-money laundering actions

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The World Bank is willing to assist St. Maarten with anti-money laundering measures as part of the recovery programme, Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops confirmed on Monday.

Even though securing the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in legislation is a responsibility of the Country St. Maarten, the Netherlands does find it important that Philipsburg gives the necessary priority to anti-money laundering measures in the coming months, stated Knops.

In his reply to written questions submitted by Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Antje Diertens and Joost Sneller, both of the Democratic Party D66, early May following reports in the Dutch media in which St. Maarten was painted as an attractive destination for criminals who wanted to launder their money.

  The articles describe a “worrisome picture,” stated Knops, who added that he has been in close touch with the St. Maarten government on this issue. He explained that as part of the efforts to reconstruct St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma, authorities are looking at whether measures can be included in the so-called Development Policy Operation which will aid in addressing the matter of money laundering.

The World Bank confirmed on June 2, 2019 that it will provide assistance in the area of anti-money laundering measures. “The World Bank has ample and international experience with this,” Knops stated. The World Bank manages the Trust Fund, financed by the Dutch government. “Naturally, we are keeping a close watch, also in relation to the reconstruction,” he added.

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“The Netherlands and the World Bank offer technical assistance to St. Maarten so it can comply with international standards against money laundering and financing of terrorism. As an autonomous country within the Kingdom, St. Maarten is responsible for the implementation of such,” Knops stated. The Kingdom has no authority in the area of combating money laundering and financing of terrorism.

Alluding to the questions by Members of Parliament (MPs) Diertens and Sneller about the economic implications when a country doesn’t comply with the FATF recommendations, the state secretary explained that the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), of which St. Maarten is a member, drafted an evaluation report in 2012 which showed that the country did not comply with 14 of the 16 main recommendations of the FATF.

Since 2012, St. Maarten has been placed under stricter supervision. A visit of the CFATF to St. Maarten in 2018. However, the agreements that were made as a result of that visit in relation to the necessity to adopt six crucial laws against money laundering and financing of terrorism before February 2019 were not complied with in time.

Early May 2019, the St. Maarten Parliament adopted a few laws to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism. The CFATF late May decided to maintain St. Maarten’s status quo. The CFATF may take a decision in November 2019 to take further measures against St. Maarten.

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If the CFATF were to issue a public report on St. Maarten, there would be multiple, severe consequences, stated Knops. St. Maarten will be considered a country that presents a risk to the international financial system. International banks can take additional precautionary measures in money transfers with St. Maarten, and may even stop banking transactions, Knops stated.

  “This would have severe repercussions for the international money transfers, St. Maarten’s attractiveness for foreign investors and for tourism, and as a result, employment. This can hamper the economic growth which means a deterioration of the government finances. It will also have adverse effects on St. Maarten’s image,” stated Knops.

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