79 charges for banking transactions amounting to over US$2.5 million - that’s what the Belize Bank and its President Phil Johnson face. The charges were filed two days ago and they allege that the bank, quote “failed to report suspicious transactions to the supervisory authority contrary to section 13 of the Money Laundering Prevention Act.”
The charges date back to 2004 – when the Belize Bank is accused of accepting cash deposits in U.S. dollars from BTL. According to the Financial Intelligence Unit, which is bringing the charges, based on what it calls “objective standards,” the transactions were suspicious and the Belize Bank and Phillip Johnson wilfully failed to report them to the Financial Intelligence Unit.
As we’ve reported, the transactions date back to sometime within a period between 2001 and 2005 when BTL’s senior management authorised Financial Controller Gaspar Aguilar to change approximately $200 million in cash on the currency black market. While Belize Bank has been charged, 7NEWS is informed that similar charges are being prepared for another banking institution.
A statement from the Belize Bank this evening says that, “there is no substance whatsoever to the strangely timed allegation by the Financial Intelligence Unit.” It continues to say that “the bank vehemently denies that it has acted in the manner alleged and will vigorously defend itself and expects to be…fully vindicated.” And what all that boils down to is that “it’s on” between the Government of Belize and the Belize Bank. The “strange timing” referred to in the bank release relates to the fact that the government has also filed a civil suit against the Belize Bank for the recovery of US$10 million in Venezuelan grant money that was directed to the bank on the instruction of the Musa administration.
In a tangentially related development, BTL has been summoned to appear in the revenue court at the Magistrate’s level on May 14 to answer for non payment of approximately $6 million dollars in business tax. The company withheld the tax payments based on a so-called accommodation agreement it signed with the last government.
Story at http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=11119