Friday, July 25, 2008

FirstCaribbean bank indicted under money laundering law

Published: Friday July 25, 2008

A court hearing in which FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB) in Belize is facing more than 100 charges has been set for September 4 by that country's Chief Magistrate Margaret McKenzie.

The bank has been indicted on allegations of failing to report suspicious money transactions between 2001 and 2005.

FCIB country manager, Glen Smith, appeared in court Tuesday in Belmopan to answer the 113 charges that were laid against the bank earlier this month, following an investigation by Belize's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

Failure to disclose

The FIU said that FCIB had contravened the Money Laundering Act. It said that between January and August 2005, the bank failed to disclose that it had facilitated the conversion of large sums of money to United States currency.

A report from the unit disclosed that as much as US$8.5 million could have been withdrawn from the bank, in single transactions of up to US$1 million by the Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL), a company that has since been dissolved.

The investigation also found that FirstCaribbean had not kept copies of the processed cheques and facilitated the transactions through two BTL employees who purchased US dollars from money traders on the parallel market.

No comment

Smith said that he had no comment to make on the legal matter.

"It is sufficient to say that the bank will vigorously defend its good name and its brand," he said.

"We are very confident in the justice system of Belize that we will be vindicated."

The chief magistrate has ordered disclosure of evidence to be presented by September 4.

Belize is one of 17 markets in which the regional banking powerhouse operates.

The banking group, which is headquartered in Barbados, is the region's third largest with assets of US$12.3 billion and 100 branch operations that service some 800,000 accounts.

FCIB is more than 90 per cent owned by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Source: Jamiaca Gleaner

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