Kenneth Rijock

Kenneth Rijock

Saturday, October 22, 2016

COMMENTARY: ANTIGUA MUST GET ITS OWN HOUSE IN ORDER, TO AVOID THE CONSEQUENCES OF DERISKING


Antigua's Sir Ronald Saunders, the Ambassador to the United States, has warned that escalating derisking, which affects Antiguan financial institutions, on the part of American banks, could have serious economic consequences for the United States. In his opinion, American workers could lose their jobs, American tourists could suffer travel issues, and American products will no longer be sold in the Carribbean region, if widespread derisking takes effect.

While I certainly am sympathetic to the plight of expats, from Antigua & Barbuda, who cannot cheaply send money home to relatives, compliance officers as American banks see Antigua as a complex problem, and are, frankly, justified in closing correspondent accounts, when operating a risk-based AML/CFT compliance program.

Here are just a few of the many issues North American bankers see, when considering whether to keep corespondent relationships with banks from Antigua:

(1) Several years after the United States asked for the extradition of Antigua's banking regulator, who faces an indictment in the Stanford International Bank Ponzi scheme, the government intentionally allows the case to remain in legal limbo, and extradition will probably never happen, for the reason that the official corruption that existed during "Sir" Allan Stanford's financial domination of the country reached as high as the Prime Minister, and the ruling elite.

(2) The long running WTO dispute with the United States, which has outlawed online gambling, in the face of the gaming industry's firm foothold in Antigua, is an open wound, that fuels risk factors.

(3) Antigua's flawed economic citizenship program, which allegedly has instances of unqualified individuals receiving passports, including diplomatic passports, and reports of bribes paid to speed up processing, together with suspicious cases of knighthood being conferred quid pro quo, scare compliance officers, who fear abuses, and the potential use of purchased citizenships for criminal or terrorist funding acts.

(4) Antigua has still, 25 years later, not caught up to North American and EU levels of banking best practices, and Americans still remember when it was a tax haven, encouraging the arrival of suspicious and openly dirty money, while others assert that "flight capital" still finds a way to enter local banks.

Unless these, and other issues, can be resolved, look for increasing derisking efforts, directed as banks located in Antigua and Barbuda. Ambassador, I understand your situation; please reduce the above risks at home, so that Antiguan banks will continue to have access to the New York banking structure. 

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