Over the past years, a number of specialized governmental agencies have been created as countries develop systems to deal with the problem of money laundering. These entities are commonly referred to as “Financial Intelligence Unit” or “FIUs”. FIUs are normally focused on the international financial services sector as money laundering and other financial crimes invariably involve international financial services. These units have attracted increased attention with their ever more important role in anti-money laundering programmes. In 1996, there was less than a handful of FIUs in the world. Today there are 132 jurisdictions that comprise the Egmont Group (an international gathering of Financial Intelligence Units). Belize’s FIU is a member of the Egmont Group since 2004.
Named after the venue in Brussels where the first such meeting of FIUs was held in June 1995, the Egmont Group serves as an international network, fostering improved communication and interaction among FIUs in such areas as information sharing and training coordination. The goal of the Group is to provide a forum for FIUs around the world to improve support to their respective governments in the fight against financial crimes. These supports includes expanding and systematizing the exchange of financial intelligence information, improving expertise and capabilities of personnel employed by such organizations, and fostering better and secure communication among FIUs through the application of technology.
The creation of Belize’s FIU was a result of intense pressure on the Government from international regulatory bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the UK Accounting firm KPMG. The international regulatory bodies noted that there has never been a successful prosecution for money laundering offence and no property has ever been seized as the proceeds of money laundering even though the Money Laundering (Prevention) Act was enacted in 1996 and the international financial service industry gathered momentum in the number of active International Business Companies operating and the number of offshore banks licensed to do business in and from within Belize.