By Sue-Ann Wayow
THE Trinidad and Tobago Embassy bank accounts in Belgium are not being closed because of tax issues and money laundering.
This is according to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Caricom Dr Amery Browne.
Speaking at a press conference at the ministry’s head office in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday, Browne said that Trinidad and Tobago’s 20 overseas missions were “staffed, supported and resourced.”
Dr Browne said, “It is also not true that there’s any allegation of untoward activity or misconduct, I heard a phrase, money laundering, being used by one activist, I take that very seriously because again, we have hardworking, diligent, well-trained staff members and there’s no allegation whatsoever of any such activity directed against any of our missions, including against our mission in Brussels.
“I want to make that crystal clear… So, I just want to put these facts out into the public domain to dispel some of the mischief and the misinformation that has been encouraged by some in the political space.”
Last Friday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in answering questions in Parliament said, “The closure of the bank accounts are not as a result of the EU taxes. They were done as part of the EU’s mitigation of anti-money laundering risks. The closing of the bank accounts of some diplomatic missions by Belgian banks came as a result of the application of the EU law on anti-money laundering and countering the finances of terrorism.”
The Brussels embassy has been given till May to have a new bank account by Brussels Bpost Bank after being notified that their existing account will be closed by February 20.
Dr Browne said, “We have a timeframe within which we are seeking to establish a new account because of the decision by B-Post bank to close our account. So, I just want to be crystal clear on that and to reassure our nationals in Europe, our staff members, and those who depend on the good service of our embassies, that all the responsible and appropriate steps are being taken at this time to treat with that specific issue in that specific city.”
Dr Browne added that the banking environment in Belgium had become difficult for a number of embassies, particularly those from developing countries not just for Trinidad and Tobago.
The minister also said that the suggestion that Trinidad and Tobago had their account with Deutsche Bank, a multinational investment bank headquartered in Germany closed was false, as Trinidad and Tobago had no accounts with that institution.
Based on Dr Rowley’s statements, during an Opposition press briefing on Sunday, Member of Parliament Dr Roodal Moonilal further called on Finance Minister Colm Imbert to state if there were any additional embassies bank accounts being closed as a result of money laundering matters.