Belize’s financial sector has been facing correspondent banking issues, even before discussions on the legalization of cannabis began. This is because many of the international banks in the Caribbean region are not prepared to pay the penalties attached to handling illegitimate money within such a small market. But, as more and more international banks limit their business with Caribbean countries like Belize, one of the nation’s major banks recently raised concerns over the potential negative impacts of a local marijuana industry on the already strained relations. As we have reported, this is one of the reasons why the Government of Belize has recently shelved the cannabis bill. Henry Charles Usher, the Minister of Constitutional and Political Reform spent some time discussing the topic this morning during his appearance on Open Your Eyes.

Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Constitutional and Political Reform

“The issue of the banks really came to a fore front earlier this year in May when one of the major banks actually wrote in to Cabinet and said listen, we are trying to improve our correspondent banking relationship with some of our international banks. This is going to make it more difficult for us to do that. For the last few years, Belize has had a correspondent banking issue. It is not brought on by marijuana. Really, what brought it on was the de-risking by the Caribbean that was done by U.S. banks. What I mean by that, Belize is a small jurisdiction compared to other countries. International banks are saying that the penalties if we are banking monies if not legitimate are so high, and the business we get from Belize is not enough to cover that penalty, that we are just going to de-risk Belize. That is why you saw Scotia-Bank pull out. You saw other international banks say, well we are jeopardizing our domestic banking by having a correspondent banking relationship with a bank in Belize.”

Channel 5