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Trinidad cabinet to examine terror suspects list

Bert Wilkinson | 1/5/2017, 9:49 a.m.

When cabinet ministers meet in Port of Spain, the Trinidad capital, early in January, they will spend time considering an intelligence report identifying nearly 200 locals with alleged links to international terrorism.

Compiled by the watchdog Financial Intelligence Unit, with its strong links to the international Financial Action Task Force, the report suggested that some of the group might be guilty of financing terrorism, as well as money laundering, and should be further investigated.

The FIU and FATF monitor the level of compliance by countries and financial institutions regarding financial transactions and suspected acts of money laundering.

 Brian Stuart Young, a minister who works out of Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s office, told local media in the past week that 182 locals were on the radar of the FIU for suspected links to terrorism.

Young said officials had pored over nearly 750 suspicious transactions in the past year, nearly 22 percent more than the previous year. More than 700 were related to money laundering and 69 had all the hallmarks of being strongly linked to the financing of terrorism.

But even as authorities are waiting out the Christmas and New Year holiday season, key members of the island’s Islamic community are focusing on the revelations and are asking that officials release the names of those listed in the document.

Umar Abdullah, who represents the Islamic Front on the island, says government appears to be guilty of being led by the nose by the FIU and its related international organizations. 

“I am challenging the government to produce the list of the 182 suspected nationals, along with the names of the 69 who are suspected of financing terrorism,” he said. “It appears as though this present administration is allowing itself to be drawn into a war with its own citizens, much to their own disadvantage and at the expense and peril of the ordinary man on the streets.”

For his part, Young said the report will show that nearly $150 million in transactions from commercial banks, private members clubs and wire transfer and real estate agencies were made during the reporting period, and authorities are picking up certain trends.

One trend includes large amounts of money transferred to places and countries Interpol and other global agencies list as major human trafficking destinations.

Additionally, the minister said, dozens of intelligence reports generated from FIU investigations have been sent to law enforcement agencies for further investigations.

So far, Trinidad appears to be way out front of its Caribbean neighbors in its level of monitoring financial transactions and alleged links to terrorism and money laundering.

Neighboring Guyana earlier this year reorganized its own intelligence unit and won some level of praise from the FATF for doing more than at any other time in recent history to comply with international rules and regulations.

Still, a major row is brewing in Trinidad, but Young was quick to indicate that no group was targeted.

“There was not any suggestion that those who may have been deemed to be terrorists are of any suasion, religious or otherwise,” the minister said. “This government fully supports the upholding of the laws and views money laundering and the financing of terrorists as very serious offences. We trust that the FIU, FIB and other law enforcement agencies will continue to do their work to the best of their ability and with the knowledge that they have the government’s support.”

The issue is a rather sensitive one for the Islamic community, in part because of the July 1990 attempt by a rebel Muslim group to overthrow the then government and because more than 400 nationals are suspected to have traveled overseas to fight alongside or support radical Islamic terrorism organizations.