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Francois appointed director of FIU
Days before Registrar General Susan Francois was confirmed as the director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Ministry of Finance, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said T&T must do more to deal with money laundering and counter-terrorist financing. Francois’ appointment was confirmed in a release issued by the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The FIU was established to implement the anti-money laundering policies of the FATF. FATF is an international organisation which was set up to develop and provide international policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The FATF, in a May 2, 2012 report on T&T on its Web site, said: “Despite Trinidad and Tobago’s high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and CFATF (Caribbean Financial Action Task Force) to address its strategic AML (anti-money laundering)/CFT (counter terrorism financing) deficiencies, the FATF is not yet satisfied that Trinidad and Tobago has made sufficient progress in implementing its action plan.”
The FATF report added: “Certain strategic AML/CFT deficiencies remain.” It said T&T should continue to work on addressing its deficiencies, which include:
• implementing adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorists assets without delay;
• implementing adequate procedures for the confiscation of funds related to money laundering; and
• establish a fully operational and effectively functioning FIU, including supervisory powers.
Francois was appointed by the Government in February 2011. Her appointment was challenged by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley who had said that Cabinet did not have the legal authority to make such an appointment. He said under the law, the commission was the authorised body to make the appointment.
The commission, under its chairman Christopher Thomas, subsequently got independent legal advice, which confirmed that the commission was the lawful body to select the FIU director. Based on that advice, the commission decided to restart the process and invite applications for the post. Francois was allowed to continue acting in the interim.
In September last year, the commission selected Michelle Ann Austin, court executive administrator of the judiciary, as the preferred candidate for the post. Francois was the second choice. But that recommendation did not find favour with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who vetoed the commission’s recommendation.
The Prime Minister said Francois’ appointment was critical to T&T’s success at implementing an action plan to deal with money laundering and counter-terrorist financing. Thomas later called a news conference in November and said that by May of this year, the commission would seek to make a permanent appointment to the position.
That was done a few days ago, after further consultations with the Prime Minister. Persad-Bissessar, in Parliament last year, said while she had nothing personal against Austin, Francois needed to remain in the job as she had done a lot to improve T&T’s rating at the Financial Action Task Force.
In the release issued on the weekend, the commission said it “now informs that on the basis of further consultations with the Prime Minister, it has appointed, Ms Susan Francois as Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit with effect from February 14, 2011.” The commission said Austin “indicated that she is no longer interested in the position in light of the continuing veto by the Prime Minister.”
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