Amid opposition calls for government to seek foreign assistance to investigate a recent money laundering matter involving the seizure of over $1 million from an apartment in Paix Bouche, Minister for National Security Rayburn Blackmoore has said he is confident in the Financial Services Unit’s (FIU) ability to handle the matter.
Blackmoore said the fully staffed and trained unit is one of the best in the region and government provides the requisite tools for an effective and efficient running of the division. According to him, three additional investigators were added to the FIU last month “to ensure that the unit meets its mandate under the anti-money laundering legislation.”
In late March, police announced that three investigators from CARICOM’s Regional Investigative Management System (RIMS) were probing the death of Kerwin Prosper, 36, of Kings Hill, who died in police custody over carnival weekend. UWP President Isaac Baptiste recently called on the chief of police to follow suit for the money laundering case and seek foreign help as this could lead to “many other issues of money laundering in Dominica.”
Two men, Aronnie Armstead Stedman of St. Joseph and Kendel Sylvester of Woodford Hill, were arrested in connection with the EC $1. 3 million discovery at Comfort Cottages in late March. The operation was conducted by police and the Customs and Excise Tax Division.
Blackmoore praised the police for their work thus far and accused the opposition’s leadership of “speaking loudly from a position of absolute ignorance.”
“As you heard from the chief of police, the large amount of money that was confiscated by the police on the 25th of March 2021 was as a result of good intelligence and excellence police work,” he said.
“I think those of us in leadership roles or positions should highly commend the police chief and his men and women instead of imputing improper motives. As we heard from the chief of police, the money was handed over to the Financial Intelligence Unit for continued investigation and I do not want to attempt to litigate the facts of that matter except to say the FIU of Dominica is ranked as one of the best in the entire region,” he added.
Blackmoore continued, “I can recall at a council of ministers for national security and law enforcement meeting, of course, pre Covid-19, the head of the US mission for the Caribbean cited the FIU of Dominica as one of the best in the region. And she had high commendation for the staff of the said unit. As the minister, I want to give the public the assurance that the FIU has the competence to investigate elements of financial crime.”
He took a jab at the opposition’s decision to request foreign investigators, stating that the public would be better served if UWP’s leadership “could use such mediums to encourage [and] call on its members to get vaccinated” against Covid-19.
“So if the Workers Party is genuinely concerned about public good… citizens, and the future of this country, and if the Workers Party is concerned about Dominica returning to some semblance of normalcy they should do the honorable thing and encourage citizens to be vaccinated,” he added.
Meanwhile in response, Leader of the UWP Lennox Linton reiterated Baptiste’s appeal for external assistance and rejected Blackmoore’s vote of confidence in the unit. He said that the FIU has failed to “do any work in the interest of Dominica” adding that such investigations should be independent of the security minister, prime minister and police commissioner.
“…There is a lot of money being laundered in Dominica by well-connected people and because…the people moving the proceeds of crime in Dominica are well connected nothing happens…I have absolutely no respect for the financial intelligence unit that Mr. Blackmoore lodged to the skies as being efficient and effective because the financial intelligence unit has not done any work in the public interest of Dominica,” Linton said.
“They may have done work for outside agencies. They may have done work for the United States, and gotten praise for the United States [but] what have they done in the public interest of Dominica?” he asked.
Linton accused the FIU of pretending to be unaware of questionable acts by certain officials under proceeds of crime law.
“We have millions; now billions of dollars, being held unlawfully [and] being used with no accounting to the parliament of Dominica as required and the police have no interest in it. It doesn’t matter how many times these issues are raised. It doesn’t matter how many times it comes up in parliament… the FIU pretends it knows nothing and it will do nothing because of who is responsible for the questionable acts under the proceeds of crime legislation and money laundering prevention responsibilities of the Commonwealth of Dominica,” he said.
In response to Blackmoore’s suggestion that the opposition should use media to encourage vaccinations instead of calling for external investigators, Linton responded by pointing out that while Covid-19 has not claimed any lives in Dominica due to efforts by the entire population, two men have died in police custody under Blackmoore’s watch as national security minister.
“We had Byron Etienne in Fond Cole, after Maria, shot dead in front of his parents by police officers in a shop…An extrajudicial killing which the minister of national security is yet to say a word about. Almost as though the life of Byron Etienne did not matter to him…” Linton said.
With regards to Prosper, Linton called for authorities to divulge the results of the investigation since he “understands” that has been completed and that the findings are in the hands of the commissioner. “When will the police commissioner reveal the results of the investigation?” he asked.
Moreover he said called on the police chief to disclose the action that the police will take in the matter.
“I don’t want to hear anything that Blackmoore has to say about FIU… [and] national security because as far as I am concerned he is a disgrace. What he needs to do now is to disclose the results of the investigation that has been completed by IMPACTS and indicate what he is going to do… in terms of holding those responsible for the death of Kerwin prosper…”Linton stated on a Q95 Radio Program recently.