A newly published U.S report asserts that there remains a “substantial black market for smuggled goods in Saint Lucia.”
The assertion was made in the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report by the United States Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
The report identifies the black market items as being mostly gold, silver and other jewellry, predominantly smuggled from Guyana.
It noted that there is a black market in high quality jewelry purchased from duty free establishments in Saint Lucia by both local and foreign consumers.
According to the report, monies suspected to be derived from drug trafficking and other illicit enterprises are filtered into and washed through trading firms.
However, it quoted Saint Lucian authorities as stating that there was sufficient progress with regard to the prosecution of money laundering offenses under the Money Laundering Prevention Act and forfeiture of the proceeds of crime in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“The successful enforcement of the laws is a result of enhanced interagency cooperation among the Police, FIA, Customs, and the Public Prosecutions Office,” the report said.
It disclosed that for the period January to October 2017, a total of 17 persons were charged with the offense of money laundering, resulting in seven convictions with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.
For the period January to October 2017, a total of 24 cash seizures totaled more than U.S. $1.8 million, according to the report.
It said the Customs and Excise Department is routinely confronted by false declarations, false invoicing, and fraudulent evasion of duties and taxes on goods.
“Law enforcement and customs authorities should be given training on how to recognize and combat trade-based value transfer, which could be indicative of both customs fraud and money laundering,” the US report advised.
It also said the Government of Saint. Lucia should improve investigative capacity within the
police and courts to prosecute cash seizure and forfeiture cases expeditiously and successfully.