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Explain your wealth legislation” is coming soon and if someone cannot explain how they got their millions, they will lose them, says Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Al-Rawi was speaking yesterday during the debate of the Finance (No.2) Bill, 2016 at the Parliament sitting at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
He said Government is making amendments to the Companies Act, the Financial Intelligence Act and Civil Asset Forfeiture legislation to ensure that people are accountable for their wealth.
He said Government will be cleaning up the Companies Registry to “unmask” beneficial owners so a person can no longer sequester assets using a legal nominee to hide a beneficial ownership.
“We are now going to say if you can’t explain your wealth, you will lose your wealth. Every drug man who owns a massive mansion, every person who is engaged in corruption who on paper is earning $5 a month, $2,000 a month and have assets coming through their nose that they can’t explain how they acquired, all of those people now, unmasking the beneficial ownership, are going to be called upon under the Civil Asset forfeiture regime...you are going to be at risk of losing your wealth,” said Al-Rawi.
The AG also disclosed that the multi-million-dollar juice can drug bust was fuelled from the use of a defunct company under the Companies Registry.
“The drugs in the juice cans, those transactions that allowed the shipment of the juice cans to the United States of America happened via a defunct company on the register. The company had stopped filing returns...whoever perpetrated the crime noticed that the company was defunct, picked up the documentation for the company and simply shipped it under that end. That’s the danger of not cleaning your Companies Registry and that’s why we have taken this opportunity, not only from a revenue perspective but importantly from a crime-fighting perspective,” said Al-Rawi.
This country, he said, is wrestling with criminality and the Proceeds of Crime Act is not yielding the fruit it should and assets are not being forfeited because the act is pegged to a conviction.
Al-Rawi disclosed that there are close to 60,000 companies, of approximately 72,000 listed under the Companies Registry, that have not filed their annual returns and after the amnesty expires in September this year, Government will be going after those persons.
He said some 28,077 have not filed all of their annual returns, while some 29,912 have filed no annual returns at all.
Al-Rawi noted the importance of cleaning the Companies Registry as he made reference to last Saturday’s $39 million cocaine bust off Trinidad’s north coast.
“Some people made the observation, well, it’s small fries you ketch, the fellas who driving the boat, where was it going? Who sent it? Who gets the profits of crime? Very good concerns. The proverbial Mr Big, big fish, middle fish, small fish, people want to know where they are, this Government has committed, Madame Speaker, to taking the profit out of crime...”