Sunday, March 11, 2012

USA sees St. Maarten, Curacao as major money-laundering countries

~ Together with Argentina added to more acute watch-list ~ PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten is one of three countries the US State Department has just designated as "major money-laundering countries." The other two are Argentina and Curacao. A French News Agency AFP report out of Washington on Wednesday quoting the US State Department's annual International Narcotics Control Strategy report said Argentina and the two "Caribbean island entities" Curaçao and St. Maarten had been moved up a notch on the department's money-laundering watch-list. They have been moved to the list of "jurisdictions of primary concern" from the less acute "jurisdictions of concern" category. In that category, Argentina, Curaçao and St. Maarten join a wide-ranging list of 66 countries that includes Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, the Cayman Islands, China, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe. The report said the three had become "major money-laundering countries," or those "whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking." As in the previous reports, the March 2012 report has been sent to Congress, State Department officials said. "Argentine and international observers express the concern that money-laundering related to narcotics trafficking, corruption, contraband and tax evasion occurs throughout the financial system," the report said. "It is also believed that most money laundering operations in Argentina are conducted through transactions involving specific offshore centers." The report also noted that Curaçao and St. Maarten had become new autonomous countries within the Dutch Kingdom in 2010. "Curaçao is a regional financial centre and a transhipment point for drugs from South America bound for the United States and Europe. Money laundering is primarily related to proceeds from illegal narcotics," it said. "The combating of drug trafficking is an ongoing concern for St. Maarten. Money-laundering is primarily related to proceeds from illegal narcotics. ... "Bulk cash-smuggling and trade-based money-laundering may be a problem due to the close proximity of other Caribbean islands and the French part of the island, Saint Martin. ..."

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