Caribbean nations miffed over US label as money launderers
Aerial View of the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil (bottom) and Port au Prince (top) on March 20, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/Hector RETAMAL)
(AFP) - The 15-nation Caribbean community is angry at the United States for labeling virtually all members of the regional trade bloc as money laundering jurisdictions and plans to mount a stiff lobbying effort in Washington, its leader said Friday.
CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque said the United States's listing 14 member states in its 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report could have devastating effects on the region.
Most of the countries have economies heavily dependent on tourism and financial services such as offshore banking and economic citizenships.
"I think these unilateral blacklistings are not helping anything," he said, adding that "there ought to be some discussion and transparency on how these lists are arrived at."
La Rocque spoke to AFP after the issue was discussed by CARICOM trade ministers at a two-day meeting in Guyana, on the northeast coast of South America.
He said that when CARICOM foreign ministers meet in Barbados next month, they would prepare the groundwork to intensify regional lobbying efforts that individual member states have already begun in Washington.
The only CARICOM member state not blacklisted by Washington was Montserrat, a British overseas territory.
La Rocque insisted CARICOM members comply with international norms for fighting money laundering.
"And all of a sudden we see these unilateral blacklistings. This is not the way to do it," he said.
In recent years, a number of US commercial banks have cut relationships with some banks across the Caribbean in an effort to reduce the risk of being exposed to movement of dirty money across borders, as part of the global fight against money laundering and terror financing.
Listed as "major money laundering countries" in the INCS report are Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Other Caribbean territories and countries also labeled as money launderers in the US report are Aruba, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, the Dominican Republic and Saint Maarten.
Also listed are Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, and United Kingdom.
© Agence France-Presse