The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is the primary institution for the collection of financial intelligence and information and the analysis, dissemination, and exchange of such financial intelligence this will also include information among law enforcement authorities, financial institution and listed businesses.
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When was the last time that you opened a business account at a financial institution ?
You were required to produce a list of documents were you not? The banker may have asked you whether you are employed or a business owner.
If your response was an employee then the following are the required documents :
Two forms of Government issued,photo identification,must be valid ;
Job letter ,must not be dated more than 3 months ;
Payslip ,must not be dated more than 3 months ;
Proof of address ,e.g. utility bill ,must not be more than 3 months old .
If the utility bill is not in the name of the applicant ,an authorization letter ,signed by the person whose name appears on the bill . This person must also submit a copy of valid ,Government issued ,photo identification.
When your banker asks you for these documents ,please be reminded that this is in order to comply with Financial Regulations. Your banker will also present you with a number of forms for your review and signature .
The FIU is the primary institution for the collection of financial intelligence and information and the analysis, dissemination, and exchange of such financial intelligence this will also include information among law enforcement authorities, financial institution and listed businesses
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What does the FIU do?
1.Acts as an autonomous independent body to serve as a national centre for the collection, analysis and dissemination of financial intelligence and information.
2.The FIU functions as a specialised intelligence agency for the receipt and analysis of STRs/SARs) and the dissemination of financial intelligence and information.
3.FIU acts as a Supervisor to monitor specified Supervised Entities and enforce compliance of AML/CFT (AML/CFT) obligations.
4.The FIU does not engage in investigative action, which is conducted by the Law Enforcement Authorities (LEAs).
The Author is an attorney at law based in Trinidad. She specializes in Anti Money Laundering and Financial Crimes. She is also an Internationally Certified Fraud and Risk Management Professional.
According to the CFATF Mutual Evaluation Report June 2016 “there is no evidence that the legal profession complies with AML/CFT measures in Trinidad and Tobago. This is a serious deficiency having regard for the significant role played by these professional as financial intermediaries (gatekeepers) in introducing and facilitating such a large percentage of financial transactions”.
Gatekeepers are professionals who can facilitate the entry of illicit money into the financial system . These professionals include: Accountants, Auditors, Lawyers, Notaries, Company Formation Agents.
In AML CFT terminology, lawyers fall under the umbrella term DNFB-Designated Non Financial Businesses and Professions.
The First Schedule of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) captures lawyers as listed businesses but states that the lawyer is only accountable when performing the following functions on behalf of a client:
a)Buying and selling real estate;
b)Managing of client money, securities and other assets;
c)Management of banking, savings or securities and other assets;
d)Organization of contributions for the creation, operation or management of companies;
e)Creation, operation or management of legal persons or arrangements, and buying and selling of business entities.
Lawyers are susceptible to being used as a conduit to money launderers to facilitate their nefarious purposes.1
It is therefore imperative that local attorneys understand their AML/CFT obligations and comply with the FIU to safeguard their practice and to retain their reputation.
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Which lawyers are at risk?
Sole practitioners, small firms and large firms are all plagued by the risk of being used by money launderers and perpetrators of other financial crimes. A risk assessment ought to be conducted to ensure that measures are put in place that are commensurate with the risks posed by the customer.
What are attorneys required to do?
Register with the FIU;
Create a Compliance Program;
Appoint a Compliance Officer;
Submit a Fit and Proper Form for the Compliance Officer to be approved by the FIU;
Train staff on the Compliance Program;
Receive internal suspicious activity and transaction memos from staff;
Report Suspicious Activity in the SAR/STR to the FIU;
Undergo Continuous training;
Conduct an annual internal review of the Compliance Program;
Conduct annual external review of the Compliance Program.
How do money launderers use the legal and professional services law firms and sole practitioners to launder their funds?
Creating corporate vehicles and complex legal entities such as trusts. These obscure the links between the proceeds of crime and the perpetrator.2
Buying and selling property can be used in the layering stage, or in the integration stage where the asset is purchased and retained.3
Performing financial transactions on behalf of a client (making deposits, issuing cheques, making and receiving wires, buying and selling stock).4
Providing financial and tax advice. Criminals may pose as wealthy individuals who need help sheltering wealth from tax.5
The issue of lawyers providing advice to their client is controversial, as they have a confidential relationship with their clients.6
According to the CFATF Mutual Evaluation Report June 2016 at paragraph 260 “Financial Institutions (FIs) have indicated that they have particular concerns with doing business with real estate entities and lawyers that buy and sell real estate due to concerns that there is inadequate AML/CFT understanding and application of the requirements such as CDD”.
The Evaluators at paragraph 282 of the MER requested that there be collaboration between the FIU and the Law Association to make the legal fraternity aware the AML/CFT legislative requirements as well as their obligations to implement these requirements.
The Evaluators noted at paragraph 317 of the MER that there appears to be a gap in the registration of lawyers. The majority of lawyers opined that they did not qualify for inclusion as a listed business since their services did not fall withAre Lawyers required to comply with Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in Trinidad and Tobago? clearly identify who should be registered.
For the offence of Money Laundering, the penalty :
On summary conviction, is a fine of $10M & to imprisonment for 10 years
On Indictment, to a fine of $25M & to imprisonment for 15 years under POCA, S 53 (1)
For the offence of the Financing of Terrorism the penalty,
On conviction on indictment for Individuals $5M & 25 years imprisonment;
On summary conviction Legal entities $5M & 5 years imprisonment under Anti Terrorism Act s 22 A (3) (4) .
When must legal practitioners conduct Customer Due Diligence(CDD)?
When the services provided to the client falls under those services described in the First Schedule of the POCA. This CDD must be applied on a risk sensitive basis when lawyers establish a “business relationship” with a client, when attorneys carry out an occasional transaction, when they suspect money laundering, when they suspect terrorist financing or when they doubt the veracity of identification documents.7
When must legal practitioners conduct Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD)?
For ongoing matters that present a higher risk of money laundering or terrorist financing, where the client has not been physically present for identification purposes or where the client is a Politically Exposed Person (PEP).8
Kevin Shepherd back in 2002 stated that “Some believe that the special relationship between lawyers and their clients gives lawyers an early inside view into crimes that could make their insights invaluable in the war on domestic and international criminal activity.”9
Lawyers as gatekeepers must start the Know Your Customer (KYC) process. “There is just no other current way of ensuring that the information an Financial Institution (FI) receives is not just a big cobweb of complexities created by a lawyer, helping the customer protect personal identification and corporate ownership information”.10
The time is coming when lawyers will be closely observed by the regulators as powerful and effective gatekeepers. Please get your affairs in order.
The author is an internationally certified Anti Money Laundering specialist and attorney at law in Trinidad .
How much of human life is lost in waiting? Do not wait until the timing is perfect. Proceed with your plans . Time waits on no one . Plan and execute. You have to state your intentions to the world and put it out in the universe. It will come back to you. The elements will line themselves up. Everything will fall into place. Start today,baby steps .Do not wait until the time is right. Do not wait for conditions to be favourable,just proceed and they will follow your lead. You have to guide the way ,you will become weary in waiting . Plan ,execute and repeat . Write your plans down for your records and tell your friends about it to remain accountable . Press on.
People underestimate the importance of their backs. If you are having back pains you will have grave difficulty functioning. Your central nervous system consists of your brain and your spinal cord. Your spinal cord runs along your back. Spine injuries may render the victim cripple. I was watching the second installment of Independence Day (2016) and the alien invader was destroyed by shooting her in the back. One of the men who was fighting to save the World advised his comrades to aim for the alien’s back because that was her weakness. I took a moment to process this and I recalled that the human back is also a vulnerable area. We always lament when persons known to us say negative about us “behind our backs “. We become bitter when they “stab us in the back”, wouldn’t it hurt more to aim for our hearts ? I think not,because a broken heart can mend. But a broken back, will never be whole again. In this era of user friendly people ,we have to guard our backs. We have to watch our own backs because a friend,is a known enemy.
Registering your limited liability company with the Companies Registrar has many benefits. Once you obtain the Certificate of Registration, a bank account can be opened in respect of the company and the company can enter into contracts.
There are three steps to incorporate a limited liability company in Trinidad and Tobago namely:
Name Search and Reservation
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These will now be discussed in turn.
Name Search and Reservation
This form has to be submitted to Registrar of Companies along with the necessary filing fee. The desired name for the company as well as two (2) alternative names must be included in the form. These alternative names will be considered in the event that the desired company name has already been registered or reserved. Once the name is reserved, the applicant has 28 days to complete the registration process. The applicant has to sign at the bottom of the Name Search form, an incorporator (attorney at law, accountant or specialized incorporator) can sign for and on behalf of the applicant. In the event that the proposed name and the two alternatives are rejected by the Registrar, a new name search must be filed. The Registrar may reject a company name for the following reasons :
(i) names prohibited by the Companies Act;
(ii) names similar to those already registered or;
(iii) a combination of general words that lack distinction or
(iv) names that are misleading to the public.
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It is wise to be specific in stating the type of services that will be offered by your company. The Registrar can request that the applicant clarify any difficulties with the proposed name by putting a query on your application. At that point, the applicant will then satisfy the Registrar’s request by writing a letter explaining why the particular name was chosen. After filing the Name Search in the appropriate form, the applicant has to return to the office of the Companies Registrar in five to seven working days to collect the response. The date for the applicant to return will be stamped on the receipt collected after the fees are paid to the cashier. If the company name is approved, the applicant can move on to the second step, that is the incorporation documents.
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The four incorporation documents must be completed in duplicate and filed by the applicant along with the necessary filing fees. Be sure to keep the name approval safely and to submit same with the incorporation documents. The incorporation documents are:
(a) Articles of Incorporation;
(b) Notice of Directors;
(c) Notice of address of Registered Office
(d) Notice of Secretary(ies)
With respect to the Articles of Incorporation , the approved name of the company must be inserted. The applicant must state whether the company will be a private or public company. The type of liability of the members must also be included whether limited or unlimited. The number of directors must be stated, by law a minimum of 2 directors are needed, a maximum of 10 directors are allowed. The name ,occupation, address and signature of the incorporator has to be included in the Articles of Incorporation. The applicant (one of the directors) also has to sign both copies of the form.
The Notice of Directors must also be completed and filed. This form provides the names, occupation and addresses of all of the directors. It is reiterated that there must be a minimum of 2 directors and a maximum of 10 directors.
The Notice of Address of Registered Office sets out the registered address of the company. All official company documents and files must be kept here. Generally, the applicant can use his residence as the registered office, however if the applicant is seeking to open a company bank account, one bank in particular will request to see the premises to ensure that it has an office conducive to operating a business.
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The Notice of Secretaries is usually filed as part and parcel of the incorporating documents. The Board of Directors will usually appoint the Corporate Secretary, a director can also act as a Corporate Secretary. The Corporate Secretary will ensure that the company complies with statutory requirements as well as ensuring that the annual returns are filed on time. Caution should be exercised in selecting a Corporate Secretary since this person can sign the documents to dissolve the company.
Once these incorporation documents are prepared and signed, an officer at the Companies Registry will review it briefly and then direct the applicant to the cashier. The applicant will pay the relevant fees and the cashier will prepare a receipt and stamp the date for the Certificate to be collected. Usually five to seven working days, may be longer. If there are further queries by the Registrar, these will have to be satisfied. Once the applicant returns on the stamped date, and the Certificate is produced it can be collected.
The date stated on the Certificate of Incorporation will be deemed the date of incorporation of the company. This is relevant to the entering of contracts by the company and the opening of company accounts. The next step after the issue of the Certificate is the development of By Laws to conduct the affairs of the company. This document is not filed at the Companies Registry, particularly for companies for profit. The By Laws will be kept at the registered office of the company.
Please be guided that Annual Returns have be filed at the Companies Registry yearly. The company must also acquire a Board of Inland Revenue number, register for VAT where applicable, and other statutory taxes. The company may also have to be registered with the Financial Intelligence Unit if it is considered a Listed Business as per FIU Regulations.
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How to Register a Sole
How to De-Register a Sole
How to Register a
How to Change from a Sole
Trader to a Limited Liability Company Trinidad;
How to Dissolve a Limited Liability Company.
The content herein is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney at law to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
Last Updated January 2019
About the Author:
A.Sydney is an attorney at law in Trinidad and Tobago. She specializes in AML/CFT/Tax Compliance, and provides Corporate Secretarial Services to local and international giants in various industries. Feel free to explore the website for her portfolio of companies and add her on social media: