Source: Amandala 29/08/2008 - Untouchables?

Update on: FirstCaribbean bank indicted under money laundering law

The Government and the Financial Intelligence Unit of Belize (FIU) announced on Friday that charges had been dropped against two of Belize’s most prominent banks, Michael Ashcroft’s Belize Bank and First Caribbean International Bank – a Canadian-controlled bank. They were facing charges related to several millions in “suspicious transactions” they were accused of failing to report – suspicious, says the FIU, because of the size and frequency of the transactions.

The official reason for dropping the charges: because foreign corresponding banks were discussing severing ties with the local banks, threatening to cause a possible collapse and a destabilization of the country’s financial sector. The set-off: the banks are to fund an electronic reporting system for the country, and fund refurbishment of two parks – between them, a penalty of roughly $300,000 total.

… and …

Does it mean now that the FIU’s power to enforce the Money Laundering Prevention Act against important banks and corporations is compromised?

The charges that had been levied against the two banks had indicated that they were in relation to transactions with British billionaire Michael Ashcroft’s other company, Belize Telecommunications Limited, now Belize Telemedia Limited. However, to date, no charges have been brought against BTL under the money laundering act.

The Reporter -Friday, 05 September 2008: Magistrate’s court dismisses criminal charges against First Caribbean Bank

Criminal charges against two of Belize’s major commercial banks finally came about this week, but not before the attorney for one of the banks complained that the bank’s reputation was put at stake when the Financial Intelligence Unit charged the bank criminally.

Attorney General’s Ministry and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade

Attorney General clarifies decision

Belmopan - 11 September, 2008
The decision of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) not to offer any evidence in support of the charges against the Belize Bank Limited and First Caribbean International Bank (FCIB), was taken upon the recommendation of the Attorney General’s Ministry.

The recommendation was made after the Attorney General had personally discussed and reached agreement on the matter with the Legal Advisor of the FIU, with the Governor of the Central Bank, with the Managing Director of Belize Bank Ltd., with the Regional Managing Director of FCIB as well as with his Legal Advisor in Barbados and also with Derrick Courtenay Senior Counsel and Ellis Arnold Senior Counsel, Legal Advisors of FCIB in Belize.

Related: Canadian CIBC-Owned FirstCaribbean International Bank Indicted In 100 Money-Laundering Act Charges! Barbados News Media Hides The Story