ST. JOHN’S: The Government of Antigua & Barbuda has questioned a report by the U.S. State Department that categorizes Antigua & Barbuda and six other Caribbean countries as “jurisdictions of primary concern for money laundering”.
Prime Minister Gastron Browne expressed concern about the damage to Antigua & Barbuda that will be caused by the document, titled the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) for 2015.
“It is cold comfort to Antigua and Barbuda that the U.S. State Department has also placed the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the People’s Republic of China in the same category,” he said. “Categorization of this kind by a U.S. government department does reputational damage to a jurisdiction that is difficult to repair, particularly in the case of small countries.
Prime Minister Browne said unlike more powerful nations, Antigua & Barbuda lacks the resources to challenge the classification.
“In the cases of the United Kingdom, Germany and France, these countries can confront the U.S. in their own organizations, such as the G7 and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, but small states such as Antigua & Barbuda and the other six Caribbean countries that have been targeted on the U.S. list have little means to challenge the categorization,” he said.
Browne, who last month at a summit meeting of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government drew attention to the U.S. labelling of the entire Caribbean as a “high risk area for financial services”, said although seven Caribbean countries were on the first list, all other independent CARICOM countries were branded as jurisdictions of concern.
“These categorizations by the U.S. State Department are arbitrary; they are compiled by unseen hands and the criteria by which they are reached are a mystery,” he said.
Since July 2014, when the current government came to office, new anti-money laundering legislation has been adopted and more resources given to the regulatory and enforcement bodies.
Browne said that he would write to the U.S. government to ask for evidence to support the claims that have been made in the INCSR document, since Antigua & Barbuda is constantly updating its money laundering laws and its regulatory and enforcement machinery in accordance with requirements by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
He also announced that in order to make joint representation to the U.S., he would seek to develop a collaborative relationship with the other six Caribbean jurisdictions with which Antigua & Barbuda has been categorized. The countries are the Bahamas, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Cayman Islands and Haiti.