Belize has landed on two lists published in the newly released “2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report” released by the US State Department. The report declares 65 countries as having been listed as jurisdictions of Major concern regarding money laundering. 22 countries have been named as major drug-transit countries.
Belize joins 15 other countries including Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti which also found themselves on both lists.
Drug Transit Countries are seen as significant direct sources of illicit drugs or other controlled substances significantly affecting the United States; or through which are transported such drugs or substances while a major money laundering country is defined by statute as one
“whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.”
When Mexico began cracking down on precursor drugs, the routes changed and volumes in other countries like Belize began to increase.
The report states that, from Belize, multi-ton shipments are routed to Mexican drug trafficking organizations for the manufacture of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs. Belize, it adds, is bordered by countries where the drug trade is controlled by well-organized and extremely violent drug cartels.
“Belize’s location between the US and drug producing countries in South America, its large stretches of unpopulated jungles, a relatively unpatrolled coastline, and hundreds of small islands makes it difficult to conduct drug interdictions.
“Belize’s counternarcotics efforts are also hampered by corruption, deficiencies in intelligence gathering and analysis, an antiquated judicial sector, and a lack of political will”. It adds that several factors create
“a facilitating environment for illegal activities to continue at various levels within the government…Belize also lacks laws that specifically address narcotics-related corruption.”
As it pertains to Money Laundering, Belize only recently rushed several new Financial Laws through the National Assembly in order to avoid being black listed.
However, there remain two main areas that Belize has not complied. “Reporting Large Transactions” and the fact that Belize is NOT a Party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Belize is an offshore financial center and because our dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar, Belizean banks continue to offer financial and corporate services to non-residents; meaning many become customers without proper due diligence.
Belizean officials suspect that there is also heavy trade-based money laundering activity and the illicit importation of duty free products in the two commercial free zones, particularly in the Corozal Commercial Free Zone.
“There is limited assistance from other law enforcement agencies, governmental departments, and regulatory bodies. The FIU has a broad mandate and a small staff, insufficient training and experience in money laundering cases.”
The National Drug Abuse Control Council (NDACC) reported an increase in the use of marijuana in 2013, a year when the discussion of the decriminalization of Marihuana took center stage.