Over 180 suspicious transactions reported to FIU for 2021

Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Matthew Langevine said the entity has received reports of over 180 suspicious transactions, since the beginning of this year.

Mr. Langevine who spoke with DPI on Thursday, said many of the reports are fraud related.

Director of Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Mr. Matthew Langevine

“The pandemic has stopped a lot of things, but crime is one of the things that seem to have flourished under the pandemic,” Langevine said.

He said the prevalence of the reports is consistent with the levels in 2020 and prior years. Last year, the FIU received 341 suspicious transaction reports.

“What has been consistent is that these suspicious transaction reports are coming from primarily the financial sector, banks and non-bank financial institutions, as well as about 46 per cent coming from money transfer agencies.”

The primary purpose of the FIU is to receive and analyse information on financial crimes and share it with law enforcement. In this regard, the Unit has submitted 14 intelligence reports to the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to investigate suspected money laundering activities, and has been working with law enforcement agencies on a number of cases, Langevine revealed.

He said the FIU is seeing an increasing number of suspicious transactions relating to online fraud. He encouraged persons to take precautions in their use of social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp. 

One such type which has been occurring frequently is the romance or package delivery scam, which the FIU drew attention to in June.

Typically, persons are defrauded of money after being influenced by social media users to transfer funds in exchange for some form of inducement or to bolster the online romantic relationship. Once the funds are transferred, the scammer would cut off all contact with the victim.

“Another phenomenon we’ve been seeing is activities relating to email compromise types fraud, where persons’ emails become compromised and instructions are sent to the bank,” Langevine said.

While not frequent, the few cases have been observed by the FIU to involve substantial amounts of money, with the target groups being large companies.

Langevine said in a typical case, the email address of a senior executive of a manufacturing company may be compromised, then an instruction is sent to the Bank to wire funds to a fake supplier.

The FIU has also been paying attention to the incidence of smurfing, which Langevine said, may not technically be a crime, but a way to launder money using the financial system.

“It’s technically an unusual transaction but you’re unable to say what specific crime was committed. It’s essentially use and abuse of the financial system to move money on behalf of criminals.”

Langevine said scams have not been reduced at any level, over time. He however commended financial institutions for cooperating, reporting and even blocking suspicious cases.

To tackle these scams, the FIU has been collaborating with agencies both locally and internationally, including the FIUs of other countries.

In terms of international cooperation, Langevine said that for the year, there have been seven instances of information sharing, including with Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.

Langevine encouraged persons to be diligent in reporting scams, affirming that the FIU will continue to work to bring perpetrators to justice.