The number of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) submitted to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) this year is expected to surpass the 540 cases reported in 2018. Those new cases will be added to an already bloated backlog the FIU is working diligently toward reducing, noted Director of the FIU Quinn McCartney.
“I think it’s safe to say that while by early next year we won’t reduce our entire backlog, we’re making significant progress, I can say that emphatically, in reducing the number of cases that are in our backlog. And we’re also trying to keep current with new procedures as they come in,” McCartney said in an interview with Guardian Business.
“Suspicious transactions have increased since last year. But we’ve also had a concerted effort in tackling the backlog, so we’re running over trying to address the
backlog of matters. We’ve also acquired four new analysts beginning just a few weeks ago, so they’ve added to our analytical team. All of this helps us, so even though we’ve had an increase in 2019 compared to 2018, we’ve done some overtime to work on our backlog and have acquired staff to help us with working on new cases as well as the existing backlog.”
Earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest announced an overhaul of the FIU to bring it up to international standards and improve the processing of STRs. It’s all in an effort to have The Bahamas removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF’s) gray list of countries with deficiencies in their anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes.
“I think we’re on the road to progress, we have not accomplished everything that we want to accomplish or need to accomplish, but we’ve certainly made significant progress in meeting the goals and in even exceeding the goals, because we’re trying to stay ahead of the game,” McCartney said when asked if his unit is prepared for an eventual review in the near future.
“So, if they’re saying we need to focus on an area, particularly for us with the FIU, the concern is the number of backlog matters in the system from 2018 and before.”
“So, we do have a high number, in terms of financial institutions reporting matters that they consider to be suspicious transactions in line with the code for this AML/CFT regime. We’re getting the reports and we are diligently trying to address all of them and where people would have breached or there is cause for concern, we will forward it on to law enforcement.”
In 2017 the FIU received 306 suspicious transaction reports, worth a total of more than $214 million. The average value of each report was more than $700,000.