According to the US Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2008 Antigua's Financial System lacks a unified regulatory structure and uniform supervisory practises for its domestic and banking sectors.
Only Haiti and Antigua & Barbuda were named as major money laundering centres in the Caribbean.
Despite comprehensive financial services and i-gaming law, "Antigua & Barbuda has yet to prosecute a money laundering case and there are few arrests or prosecutions. The Government of Antigua & Barbuda should conduct more thorough investigations that could lead to a higher number of arrests, prosecutions and convictions. The Government should implement and enforce all provisions of it anti-money laundering legislation, including the supervision of its offshore sector and gaming industry," the report stressed.
Local reports show that the four most senior Police officers were replaced in March 2008 with Canadian counterparts on a two year secondment. Canadian Gary Nelson was sworn in as the new Police Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda, a few hours after delano Christopher took vacation leave.
Antigua & Barbuda has long been identified by the Office of National Drug Control & Money Laundering Policy as a major hub in the trans-shipment of narcotics. In 2007 Antigua added the expropriation of US & UK private property, for which it has not paid compensation, to its long list of international scandals.
The Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2008 states: "Antigua and Barbuda has comprehensive legislation in place to regulate its financial sector, but remains susceptible to money laundering because of its offshore financial sectors and Internet gaming industry. As with other countries in the region, illicit proceeds from the transshipment of narcotics are laundered in Antigua and Barbuda. Its offshore financial sector exacerbates Antigua and Barbuda’s vulnerability to money laundering.
In 2007, Antigua and Barbuda had 17 offshore banks, three offshore trusts, two offshore insurance companies, 3,255 international business corporations (IBCs), and 23 licensed Internet gaming companies. The International Business Corporations Act of 1982 (IBCA), as amended, is the governing legal framework for offshore businesses in Antigua and Barbuda.
Bearer shares are permitted for international companies. However, the license application requires disclosure of the names and addresses of directors (who must be natural persons), the activities the corporation intends to conduct, the names of shareholders, and number of shares they will hold. Registered agents or service providers are required by law to know the names of beneficial owners. Failure to provide information or giving false information is punishable by a fine of U.S. $50,000.
Offshore financial institutions are exempt from corporate income tax. All licensed institutions are required to have a physical presence, which means presence of at least a full-time senior officer and availability of all files and records. Shell companies are not permitted. Antigua and Barbuda has five domestic casinos, which are required to incorporate as domestic corporations. Internet gaming companies are required to incorporate as IBCs, and as such are required to have a physical presence. Internet gaming sites are considered to have a physical presence when the primary servers and the key person are resident in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda (GOAB) receives approximately U.S. $2.8 million per year from license fees and other charges related to the Internet gaming industry. A nominal free trade zone in the country seeks to attract investment in priority areas of the government. Casinos and sports book-wagering operations in Antigua and Barbuda’s free trade zone are supervised by the Office of National Drug Control and Money Laundering Policy (ONDCP), which serves as the GOAB’s financial intelligence unit (FIU), and the Directorate of Offshore Gaming (DOG), housed in the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC).
The GOAB has adopted regulations for the licensing of interactive gaming and wagering, to address possible money laundering through client accounts of Internet gambling operations. The FSRC and DOG have also issued Internet gaming technical standards and guidelines. Internet gaming companies are required to submit quarterly and annual audited financial statements, enforce know-your-customer verification procedures, and maintain records relating to all gaming and financial transactions of each customer for six years.
Suspicious activity reports from domestic and offshore gaming entities are sent to the ONDCP and FSRC. The GOAB has not initiated a unified regulatory structure or uniform supervisory practices for its domestic and offshore banking sectors.
Currently, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) supervises Antigua and Barbuda’s domestic banking sector. The Registrar of Insurance supervises and examines domestic insurance agencies. The director of the ONDCP—who was designated in 2003 as the Supervisory Authority created under the Money Laundering Prevention Act of 1996 (MLPA)—supervises all financial institutions for compliance with suspicious transaction reporting requirements.
The FSRC is responsible for the regulation and supervision of all institutions licensed under the IBCA, including offshore banking and all aspects of offshore gaming. This includes issuing licenses for IBCs, maintaining the register of all corporations, and conducting examinations and reviews of offshore financial institutions as well as some domestic financial entities, such as insurance companies and trusts. In the offshore sector, the IBCA requires that a corporate entity submit all books, minutes, cash, securities, vouchers, customer identification, and customer account records. Financial institutions are required to maintain records for six years after an account is closed. The IBCA provides for disclosure of confidential information pursuant to a request by the director of the ONDCP, and pursuant to an order of a court of competent jurisdiction in Antigua and Barbuda. In addition, section 25 of the MLPA states that the provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding any obligation as to secrecy or other restriction upon the disclosure of information imposed by any law or otherwise. The MLPA contains provisions for obtaining client and ownership information. The MLPA, as amended, is the cornerstone of Antigua and Barbuda’s anti-money laundering legislation.
The MLPA makes it an offense for any person to obtain, conceal, retain, manage, or invest illicit proceeds or bring such proceeds into Antigua and Barbuda if that person knows or has reason to suspect that they are derived directly or indirectly from any unlawful activity. The MLPA covers institutions defined under the Banking Act, IBCA, and the Financial Institutions (NonBanking) Act, which include offshore banks, IBCs, money service businesses, credit unions, building societies, trust businesses, casinos, Internet gaming companies, and sports betting companies. Intermediaries such as lawyers and accountants are not included in the MLPA.
The MLPA requires reporting entities to report suspicious activity suspected to be related to money laundering, whether a transaction was completed or not. There is no reporting threshold imposed on banks and financial institutions. Internet gaming companies, however, are required by the Interactive Gaming and Interactive Wagering Regulations to report to the ONDCP all payouts over U.S. $25,000. The Office of National Drug Control and Money Laundering Policy Act, 2003 establishes the ONDCP as the GOAB’s FIU.
The ONDCP is an independent organization under the Ministry of National Security and is primarily responsible for the enforcement of the MLPA and for directing the GOAB’s anti-money laundering efforts in coordination with the FSRC. The ONDCP assumes the role and fulfills the responsibilities of the Supervisory Authority as described in the MLPA, which includes the supervision of all financial institutions with respect to filing suspicious transaction reports (STRs). Additionally, the ONDCP Act authorizes the director to appoint officers to investigate narcotics trafficking, fraud, money laundering, and terrorist financing offenses. Auditors of financial institutions review their compliance program and submit a report to the ONDCP for analysis and recommendations.
The ONDCP has no direct access to databases of financial institutions. Domestically, the ONDCP has a memorandum of understanding with the FSRC and is expected to sign another with the ECCB. Other memoranda of understanding have been drafted to cover all aspects of the ONDCP’s relationship with the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force, Customs, Immigration, and the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force. As of October 2007, the ONDCP had received 43 STRs (down from 52 in 2006), 11 of which were investigated. No arrests, prosecutions or convictions were reported by the GOAB in 2006 or 2007, although there were two arrests in 2005. Antigua and Barbuda has yet to prosecute a money laundering case.
Under the MLPA, a person entering or leaving the country is required to report to the ONDCP whether he or she is carrying U.S. $10,000 or more in cash or currency. In addition, all travelers are required to fill out a customs declaration form indicating if they are carrying in excess of U.S. $10,000 in cash or currency. If so, they may be subject to further questioning and possible search of their belongings by Customs officers. The GOAB Customs Department maintains statistics on cross-border cash reports and seizures for failure to report. This information is shared with the ONDCP and the police. The Misuse of Drugs Act empowers the court to forfeit assets related to drug offenses.
The ONDCP is responsible for tracing, seizing and freezing assets related to money laundering. The ONDCP has the ability to direct a financial institution to freeze property up to seven days, while it makes an application for a freeze order. If a charge is not filed or an application for civil forfeiture is not made within 30 days, the freeze order lapses. Convictions for a money laundering offense make it likely that an application for forfeiture will succeed unless the defendant can show that the property was acquired by legal means or the defendant’s business was legitimate. Forfeited assets are placed into the Forfeiture Fund and can be used by the ONDCP for any other purpose. Approximately 20 percent of forfeited assets go to the Consolidated Fund at the Treasury. The GOAB is currently working on asset forfeiture agreements with other jurisdictions.
The director of ONDCP, with Cabinet approval, may enter into agreements and arrangements with authorities of a foreign State, which covers matters relating to asset sharing. There are asset sharing agreements with certain countries, while others are negotiated on an ad hoc basis. The ONDCP is presently overseeing the drafting of MOUs with a number of countries in Central America to enhance asset tracing, freezing and seizure. An MOU has recently been concluded with Canada. Regardless of its own civil forfeiture laws, currently the GOAB can only provide forfeiture assistance in criminal forfeiture cases. I
n the past few years, the GOAB has frozen approximately U.S. $6 million in Antigua and Barbuda financial institutions as a result of U.S. requests and has repatriated approximately U.S. $4 million. The GOAB has frozen, on its own initiative, over U.S. $90 million believed to be connected to money laundering cases still pending in the United States and other countries. The GOAB reported seizing U.S. $420,236 in 2006 and U.S. $14,753 in 2007.
The GOAB enacted the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2001, amended in 2005, to implement the UN conventions on terrorism. The Act empowers the ONDCP to nominate any entity as a “terrorist entity” and to seize and forfeit terrorist funds. The law covers any finances in any way related to terrorism. The Act also provides the authority for the seizure of property used in the commission of a terrorist act; seizure and restraint of property that has been, is being or may be used to commit a terrorism offence; forfeiture of property on conviction of a terrorism offence; and forfeiture of property owned or controlled by terrorists. The Act requires financial institutions to report every three months on whether or not they are in possession of any property owned or controlled by or on behalf of a terrorist group. In addition, financial institutions must report every transaction that is suspected to be related to the financing of terrorism to the ONDCP. The Attorney General may revoke or deny the registration of a charity or nonprofit organization if it is believed funds from the organization are being used for financing terrorism. The GOAB circulates lists of terrorists and terrorist entities to all financial institutions in Antigua and Barbuda. No known evidence of terrorist financing has been discovered in Antigua and Barbuda to date. The GOAB does not believe indigenous alternative remittance systems exist in country, and has not undertaken any specific initiatives focused on the misuse of charities and nonprofit entities.
The GOAB continues its bilateral and multilateral cooperation in various criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions. As a result of such cooperation, both the United States and Canada have shared forfeited assets with the GOAB on several occasions. The amended Banking Act 2004 enables the ECCB to share information directly with foreign regulators if a memorandum of understanding is established. In 1999, a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and an extradition treaty with the United States entered into force. An extradition request related to a fraud and money laundering investigation remains pending under the treaty. The GOAB signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the United States in December 2001 that allows the exchange of tax information between the two nations.
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and will undergo a mutual evaluation in early 2008. Antigua and Barbuda is also a member of the Organization of American States Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission Experts Group to Control Money Laundering (OAS/CICAD). The GOAB is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the UN Convention against Corruption, the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism. The ONDCP is a member of the Egmont Group.
The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has taken steps to combat money laundering and terrorist financing by passing relevant legislation that applies to both domestic and offshore financial institutions, and establishing a thorough regulatory regime. However, the GOAB should implement and enforce all provisions of its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing legislation, including the supervision of its offshore sector and gaming industry.
Despite the comprehensive nature of the law, Antigua and Barbuda has yet to prosecute a money laundering case and there are few arrests or prosecutions. The GOAB should conduct more thorough investigations that could lead to higher numbers of arrests, prosecutions, and convictions. Law enforcement and customs authorities should be trained to recognize money laundering typologies that fall outside the formal financial sector.
The GOAB should continue its international cooperation, particularly with regard to the timely sharing of statistics, information related to offshore institutions, and seized assets."