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Financial Investigation Agency To Be Launched

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Thursday, May 6 2004 – An inauguration ceremony was held on Thursday, 6 May to launch the Financial Investigation Agency (FIA), which will be responsible for the investigation of white collar crimes affecting the Territory. The ceremony took place at the Reef House, Prospect Reef where the Ag. Governor Elton Georges, Chief Minister Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith and the Chairman of the Agency who is also the Ag. Deputy Governor Mrs. Lisa Penn Lettsome gave brief remarks.

Mrs. Penn Lettsome in her remarks spoke of the billions of money laundered worldwide and the BVI’s efforts to derail such criminality. She said in a year or two the FIA could be judged by two main advantages, which she offered as a yardstick:

  1. The efficient but careful exchange of information between jurisdictions as well as between relevant agencies;
  2. A concentration of expert and capable personnel in the field of financial investigation.

Additionally, she made specific reference to recent mail scams that occurred locally, which re-emphasized the timeliness of the FIA’s launch. At the brief ceremony, Chief Minister Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith stated that the inauguration of the Financial Investigation Agency is yet another indication of his Government’s commitment to uphold integrity and honesty in business and to stamp out financial and other white-collar crimes, whether in the Territory or whether using the Territory’s financial vehicles as conduits. “This commitment is the foundation of our entire financial industry and, I can assure you, it will always be a top priority for this Government”, he added.

“October 2002, the Governor in Council approved the establishment of the FIA. Following this, the Financial Investigation Agency Act (2003) was passed by the Legislature on 30 December 2003 and came into effect on 1 April 2004.”

The Agency’s functions will include processing requests for legal assistance from several international judicial and law enforcement bodies; assisting with the investigation of financial crimes; and receiving, analysing and investigating suspicious transaction reports filed under the Proceeds of the Criminal Conduct Act.

Formerly, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) Financial Investigations Unit undertook most of these investigative functions, with other agencies such as the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Reporting Authority coordinating and overseeing relevant requests. The FIA was established as a result of the need to centralise and streamline matters relating to financial investigations in an effort to eventually unify several procedures that presently exist under various pieces of legislation. The Agency’s establishment is timely in light of the recent onslaught on the Territory’s legal and regulatory regimes in relation to the administration of its financial services industry, its ability and resources to effectively check the activities of money launderers and its cooperation in mutual legal assistance matters.

Promoters of the FIA were mindful of the several initiatives of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the European Union (EU), the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which threaten the future of the financial services industry in the region. It is also expected that the FIA, in developing its mandate, will assist the Ministry of Finance in implementing relevant Tax Information Exchange and related agreements.

The establishment of the FIA demonstrates the Territory’s continued commitment to international cooperation, while at the same time insulating and protecting the financial services industry and promoting the welfare of the economy.

The Executive Body of the FIA comprises of the Deputy Governor as Chairman; the Financial Secretary; the Commissioner of Police; the Comptroller of Customs; and the Managing Director of the Financial Services Commission. Police Inspector Mr. Graeme Smith, former Head of the RVIPF Financial Investigation Unit, will be the interim Director.

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Any person that fails or refuses to provide information to the Agency that it considers relevant to the performance of its functions commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.

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