The islands of Trinidad and Tobago has seen an increase in tax evasion, with cases almost doubling in 2019 according to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in that nation.
The FIU is the intelligence-gathering unit within the Ministry of Finance in T&T.
Cases rose by 79 per cent, the FIU declared with 134 reports of tax evasion valued at TTD$697 million.
Reports of money laundering also climbed 286 cases valued at TTD$329 million.
In total, the FIU recorded 1,019 suspicious transactions valued at TTD$1.7billion for 2019.
FIU sources said one third of the persons involved were non-nationals from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
In total, the value of reports exceeded 2018 by TTD$595 million.
Gail Alexander, writing in the Guardian newspaper, said the island now ranked higher in crime lists because of suspected criminal conduct leading to money laundering.
A Income Tax Amendment bill which has been laid before Parliament in the country seeks to mitigate the rising problem through compliance with the Global Forum. The forum encourages tax information exchanges to prevent tax evasion.
The Caribbean Financial Task Force (CFATF,) is supporting the bill which is expected to assist FIU with taxpayer information to determine if earnings are legitimate.
Officials note that tax evasion is criminal conduct which can lead to money laundering offences.
As cited, indicators of evasion include co-mingling of funds: putting business processes into personal accounts, as well as large deposits of cash put into personal accounts with unverifiable explanations.
It is also inclusive of transactions which hide who actually owns the money to avoid tax liability.
In 2019 the FIU reported of encountering about (TT) $22 billion worth of Suspicious Transaction Reports (SARS) going through the banking system.
The FIU is tasked to track money from the source and identify where it came from and its ultimate destination, to determine if it’s legitimate earnings.
Money laundering issues from criminal proceeds from crimes inclusive of human trafficking, trafficking in arms/ammunition, corruption, extortion, murder, bribery, kidnapping fraud, robbery, theft.
The island’s competent authorities are seeking to turn off the tap, preventing money from these sources from being legitimized