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Moneygram: Donít Call It A Comeback

Posted By: Marty

Moneygram: Donít Call It A Comeback - 07/22/10 03:37 PM

When you say the name MoneyGram in Belize - for most, there's a negative association. After all, the agents for that company are implicated in the most well publicized money laundering scandal in recent recall.

But Steve Higgins is trying to change that. He's the Caribbean Regional Manager in Belize to open a new MoneyGram super-agent in the Cayo district.

And while it's business for MoneyGram as it tries to re-establish its presence and restore its reputation in Belize, it's also news for us because you can't discount the fact that remittances provide a substantial segment of Belize's GDP. And you also can't argue that in hard times many people prefer sending with MoneyGram because, simply, it's cheaper.

Higgins discussed his company's planned resurgence in Belize; he said this time they'll be extra careful not to bring their corporate name into disrepute.

Steve Higgins, caribbean Regional Manager
"The recovery is going very well, thank you. Certainly what MoneyGram has been doing is increasing our network and our business worldwide and more immediately in the Caribbean we've been increasing our business certainly. An integral part of this has been the bolstering of our compliance processes."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you feel that there was a failure of due diligence in the past? Or is it just simply that you can't control everything and if people are inclined to engage in certain nefarious transactions at a certain point, it's money you are transferring; it's not bibles."

Steve Higgins
"The thing is, people will try anything they want to do, hence again why we are beefing up on a continuous basis all our processes, however I also gather that there is still a court case in session. So I don't want to make any comment regarding what has happened in the past."

Jules Vasquez
"The principal use of it is sending money for love ones in need."

Steve Higgins
"Yes, we are in the business of family remittances."

Jules Vasquez
"But at the end of the day you all are in the business of moving money. And it is not in your interest to scrutinize every transaction."

Steve Higgins
"Why? We have to."

Jules Vasquez
"Because once money is moving, money is making. Once you are moving money you are making money."

Steve Higgins
"No, no."

Jules Vasquez
"And so if someone is doing illegitimate sports betting transfers, using the Prime Minister's stolen drivers license details, t the end of the day MoneyGram won't scrutinize that at a corporate level because once money is moving, money is making."

Steve Higgins
"Absolutely not. I don't know where you got that theory from but let me make it abundantly clear to you. We don't not bow to any unscrupulous company or person who wishes to do any kind of illicit act none and we have close down businesses if we do not think that they are paying enough attention to monitoring transactions to make sure that these transactions are clean. We are not bowing to any suspicious activity or any illicit act what so ever and we don't care how much money is involved and please remember we have shut down locations where we think that they have not been paying any attention to monitoring their transactions and any of our agents who does not have a compliance manager, a compliance program and a compliance manual, we shut them down immediately."

Jules Vasquez
"You didn't shut down the one here though."

Steve Higgins
"They are there?"

Jules Vasquez
"You shut it down after."

Steve Higgins
"We shut that down long before they knew they were shut down. We shut that down long before the story broke here in Belize."

Jules Vasquez
"I still saw the sign out here on the streets."

Steve Higgins
"Well because the agent refuse to remove the sign doesn't mean that we didn't stop the service. The service and the computers are control by us."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you foresee a day - and I know you don't like me bringing up the name, Western Union - when you will be as visible and ubiquitous in Belize as Western Union? For example Belize Bank because of its banking discretion does not have a MoneyGram sign outside the building."

Steve Higgins
"What date is it today?"

Jules Vasquez
"Today is July 21st, 2010."

Steve Higgins
"Promise me that you will be available for an interview next year this time. How you like that?"

Presently MoneyGram has "send" and "receive" operations at the Belize bank and super-agents in Cayo and Toledo.

According to recent estimates, remittances to Central America and the Caribbean from the United States surged in the first three months of 2010 - because of a resurgent US economy.

Also of note is that the financial reform bill signed into law in the United States today by President Obama includes remittance transparency standards that will help ensure the safe and affordable transfer of billions of dollars each year from immigrant workers to their families in places like Belize.

Channel 7

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