Since the development of the legislative frameworks to combat Money Laundering (ML) and Terrorist Financing (TF) and implementation of measures by financial institutions to prevent the misuse of their services in ML/TF operations, money launderers resorted to the non-financial sector to try to conceal and launder proceeds of crime. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) conducted several studies to examine the risks related to misusing non-financial businesses and professions in ML/TF operations and found that such risks were considerable. The FATF believed that these risks required the extension of the international requirements relating to Anti- Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) to some of these non-financial businesses and professions.
In its effort to become an effective part of the AML/CFT global network, Belize passed amendments to the Money Laundering and Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2008 (MLTPA) and enacted Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions Regulations, 2014 (DNFBP Regulations) www.fiubelize.org Under these laws, effective 7 February 2014, businesses defined as “designated non-financial businesses and professions” or “DNFBPs” are required to apply for registration with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) (See section 2).
- Who has to register?
In accordance with section 85B of the MLTPA, a person (meaning a natural person or a legal person) who carries on, or intends to carry on, one of the following businesses in, or from within, Belize is a DNFBP and is required by law to be registered with the FIU:
- Casinos, Gambling Houses, Internet Casino or Online Gaming.
- Real estate agents, when they are involved in transactions for their client concerning the buying and selling of real estate.
- Dealers in precious metals and precious stones (such as diamonds and other gemstones).
- Vehicle dealers.
- Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) & Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
- A business operating in a Free Zone area.
- Lawyers, notaries, other independent legal professionals, accountants, auditors and tax advisers, when they prepare or carry out transactions for their client concerning the following activities:
- buying and selling of real estate;
- managing of client money, securities or other assets;
- management of bank, savings or securities accounts;
- organization of contributions for the creation, operation or management of companies; or
- creation, operation or management of legal persons or arrangements and buying and selling of business entities.
- How does application for registration work?
Effective 7 February 2014, if you are engaged in a business or profession and you are classified as a DNFBP as referred to in section 2 above, you are required to make an application to be registered with the FIU before 31 August 2014. If you intend to start a new business and you are classified as a DNFBP, you must apply not less than 14 days before starting your business. Applications can be obtained in person at the FIU office or on the FIU website at www.fiubelize.org. Remember, to carry on business or profession as a DNFBP, you must be registered in respect of that business. It is also important to note that registration as a DNFBP with the FIU is not a substitute for any business or professional licence or other authorization from the Government of Belize to engage in a business or profession.
Before you submit your application, please consider the following matters:
- Ensure that your business or profession falls within the definition of a DNFBP.
- Ensure that you have the appropriate licence or authorization to engage in your business or profession.
- Read this Guide, as well as the notes contained in the Application Form, R101.
- Ensure that, upon registration, you will be able to comply with AML/CFT obligations applicable to you in the MLTPA and DNFBP Regulations. For example, if you are not a sole trader, ensure you have identified an appropriate individual to act as the Money Laundering Compliance Officer (MLCO).
- Completing and submitting the application for registration form
To apply, you must fill out the application for registration form, Form R101. As noted above, that form is available at the FIU’s office or on the FIU’s website at www.fiubelize.org. When filling out the form, be as comprehensive as possible. It is vital that you supply all relevant information. Openness and honesty are essential.
Once you have completed the application Form R101, keep a copy for your records and submit the completed form to the FIU along with a copy of your deposit ticket showing payment of the non-refundable application fee of BZD$100.00 and registration fee, copies of business license, certificate of incorporation and copies of passport for all of the applicant’s directors, senior officers, and significant owners. (Significant owner is defined in the DNFBP Regulations as any person who owns, whether legally or beneficially, 10% or more; who has the power, directly or indirectly, to exercise, or control the exercise of, 10% or more of the voting rights; or who has the power to appoint or remove one or more directors.)
Review your Form R101 before submission, particularly when using consultants or legal advisers. You are the one who knows your business best and you are also legally responsible for any information contained in the Form R101. Make sure your Form R101 is signed and that you have provided the required attachments.
You may email the form and required attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org. The FIU will begin processing the application upon receipt. However, for confirmation and completion of the registration process you must send the original Form R101, attachments and payment (or proof of payment) by mail to:
Financial Intelligence Unit
4998 Coney Drive Coney Drive Plaza P.O. Box 2197
Belize City, Belize
Note: Payment can be deposited to the account of the Financial Intelligence Unit at any of your local Scotiabank (Belize) Limited branches country wide.(For payment instructions click here). If you have any questions, please contact the FIU. (See section 6 on how to contact the FIU.)
Pursuant to section 5(4) of the DNFBP Regulations, the FIU may request that you provide such other documents and information as it considers necessary to determine your application or verify any document or information provided. Also, if there is any change in the information you submitted, or you learn that any information you submitted was incomplete, inaccurate or misleading, you must notify the FIU of the particulars of the change or of the incomplete, inaccurate or misleading information as soon as possible using Change of Registration Details Form, R102.
- After your application is submitted
If your Form R101 and attachments are complete, the FIU will typically process your application for registration within 14 calendar days of receipt. This timing is indicative only and may be impacted by the completeness of your Form R101 and the timely submission of information and responses to any requests made by the FIU. Once the application is processed, the FIU will issue a notice confirming or refusing your registration.
- Confirmation of registration
When your registration is confirmed, the FIU will provide you with a Certificate of Registration which will indicate your registration number and the expiration date of your registration. (See section 3.5). The FIU will also post your identification information on its public website. This includes information about your entity, registration number and expiration date of your registration. Registration is valid for a period of one year, at the expiry of which it must be renewed 14 days prior to the date of expiration if you intend to continue carrying on the business or profession.
- Refusal of application
Section 7 of the DNFBP Regulations spells out several grounds for refusing an application to register. These grounds include, but are not limited to, failure to provide requested information, lack of capacity or willingness to comply with its AML/CFT obligations, and where the applicant or its business represents a significant money laundering or terrorist financing risk. If the FIU refuses an application for registration, it will provide the applicant with written notice stating the grounds for its refusal. A person whose application has been refused may re-apply at any time upon addressing the grounds specified by FIU for refusal.
- Annual renewal
As explained in paragraph 3.3, your registration is valid for one year and you are required to renew it before it expires if you intend to continue to carry on the business or profession. Fourteen (14) days prior to the date on which your registration expires, you should file your
application for renewal – Form R101 with the FIU and pay the annual fee in respect of your type of business or profession as set out in the Third Schedule to the DNFBP Regulations and listed below for your convenient reference.
- Notice of changes
Once you are registered as a DNFBP, you are required to submit to the FIU notice of any changes in directors or senior officers, significant owners, or any information required to be registered. This notice must be given within 14 days of the change taking effect. Further specifics of this requirement are found in sections 9, 10 and 11 of the DNFBP Regulations and a
Form R101 can be obtained on the FIU’s website.
- Cessation of business operations
When you are registered in accordance with the DNFBP Regulations, you are required to notify the FIU within 14 days after the day on which you cease business operations.
- Application and registration fees
A non-refundable application fee of $100.00 is payable before an application will be processed. The following are the registration fees payable in respect of DNFBPs.
Casino $500.00 Gambling houses and online gaming $250.00 Real estate agents $150.00 Dealers in precious metals and precious stones $150.00 Lawyers, notaries, other independent legal professionals, accountants, auditors and tax advisors $150.00 Vehicle dealers $100.00 NPOs & NGOs $100.00 Business in a Free Zone area $200.00
- Annual fees
The following are the annual fees payable in respect of DNFBPs on or before the anniversary of their registration date.
Casino $600.00 Gambling houses and online gaming $300.00 Real estate agents $200.00 Dealers in precious metals and precious stones $150.00 Lawyers, notaries, other independent legal professionals, accountants, auditors and tax advisors $200.00 Vehicle dealers $150.00 NPOs & NGOs $100.00 Business in a Free Zone area $300.00
- Responsibilities and obligations
As a DNFBP, and part of the global AML/CFT network, you will have certain responsibilities and obligations. The following is a brief introduction to those responsibilities and obligations. It is, of course, a simplified list. These responsibilities and obligations are spelled out fully in the MLTPA and the DNFBP Regulations and are addressed in outreach material provided on the FIU’s website. This list is designed to assist you to focus on the first priorities that a DNFBP should ensure are in place.
- Senior management responsibility
The senior management of a DNFBP is ultimately responsible for compliance with AML/CFT obligations. In carrying out their responsibilities, every member of a DNFBP senior management must exercise due skill, care and diligence.
- AML/CFT policies and procedures
A DNFBP must establish and maintain effective AML/CFT policies, procedures, systems and controls designed to prevent opportunities for money laundering in relation to its activities. This requirement is set out more specifically in section 18 of the MLTPA.
- Money Laundering Compliance Officer (MLCO)
In accordance with section 18A of the MLTPA, a DNFBP, other than a sole trader, must nominate a person as the Money Laundering Compliance Officer (MLCO). This person must be an individual who is approved as being fit and proper for the post by the FIU. An application,
Form A201, for the approval of a proposed MLCO may be obtained from the FIU’s office or on the FIU’s website at www.fiubelize.org. A sole trader is the MLCO in respect of the business.
The main responsibility of the MLCO is to ensure compliance with applicable laws and with the internal policies of the DNFBP by its employees, agents, and other contractors. The MLCO aims to ensure that the DNFBP’s compliance systems are part of the fabric of business operations and to promote an ethical culture and a culture of compliance within the licensee.
- Risk assessments and customer due diligence
A DNFBP must conduct risk assessments of its business and customers. The findings of these assessments should be used to determine the level of customer due diligence (CDD) that should be undertaken. Generally, CDD is information and documents obtained about a customer and may assist a DNFBP to mitigate any AML/CFT risks identified with undertaking business with a customer.
- AML/CFT training and awareness
A DNFBP must provide AML/CFT training to all relevant employees at appropriate and regular intervals. This training should be tailored to the level of exposure and risk faced by the DNFBP to AML/CFT issues.
- Reporting requirements
If a DNFBP suspects, or has reasonable grounds to suspect, that any transaction, proposed transaction or attempted transaction is related to ML/TF or other serious crime, the DNFBP is required to immediately file a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) with the FIU. The particulars regarding this obligation are set out in section 17 of the MLTPA. The following section sets out some examples to help raise awareness and assist various sectors of DNFBPs to identify when a transaction might be considered unusual or suspicious.
- Senior management responsibility
- Examples of unusual or suspicious transactions
The reporting requirement referred to above is one of the most critical elements of the AML/CFT regime. It requires all DNFBP staff members, from management to receptionist, to have an understanding of AML/CFT issues so they may be alert for things that don’t seem quite right and that could indicate an illicit motive or a suspicious transaction.
Different types of DNFBPs may be subject to different risks, depending on the nature of the business. Although some of the following examples are listed as sector-specific, the examples may not be exclusive to any one sector. For example, behaviour that may be suspicious in the context of a real estate transaction may also be suspicious in the context of a vehicle purchase. The last section provides general examples. Please refer to the FIU’s website for typologies that provide additional examples of behaviour or transactions that may be considered unusual or suspicious.
- Appointing a lawyer in financial or commercial transactions and requesting the concealment of the client’s name in any of these transactions.
- The client resorts to lawyers to create companies, particularly international business companies, from outside the country (offshore) in a way that shows that the objective of creating the company is to conceal the illicit source of the funds.
- The client resorts to lawyers to invest in the real estate market while the purchase or sale prices are not commensurate with the real estate market value.
- The client requests, upon hiring a lawyer to incorporate a company, to transfer/deposit the incorporation fees or the capital to/in the bank account of the lawyer through multiple accounts to which he has no relation, without a reasonable justification.
- The lawyer manages investment portfolios, in countries allowing such conduct, and receives instructions from the client to make buying/selling transactions that have no clear economic reason.
- The client’s disinterest in incurring losses or realizing extremely low profits in comparison with persons engaged in the same line of business, and persisting in pursuing his activities.
- High volume of foreign transfers from/to the client’s accounts or the increase of the revenues and cash amounts he obtains in a sudden manner that is not commensurate with his usual income, without any justification.
- Client’s receipt of cash money or high value cheques, which do not suit the volume of his work or the nature of his activity, particularly if they come from certain people who are not clearly or justifiably connected to the client.
- Unjustified amounts or deposits in the client’s accounts whose origin or cause is difficult to identify.
- Disproportionate amounts, frequency and nature of transactions carried out by the customer that are not commensurate with the nature of his business, profession or known and declared activity, particularly if these transactions are carried out with suspicious countries that are not connected to his apparent business domain.
- Repeated large-amount of cash transactions including foreign exchange transactions or cross-border fund movement when such types of transactions are not commensurate with the usual commercial activity of the client.
- Real estate agents
- Buying or selling real estate property at a price not commensurate with its actual value, whether by increase or decrease, in comparison with the market prices or the prices of similar real estates in the same area.
- Repeated buying of real estate properties whose prices do not suit the buyer’s usual capacity according to the information available on him or as expected from him (due to the nature of his profession or business), which causes doubts that he is carrying out these transactions for other persons.
- Trying to register the real estate property at a price less than the actual value or the amount that will be paid, and pay the difference “under the table”.
- Client’s disinterest in inspecting the real estate to check its structural condition prior to the completion of the purchase operation.
- Client’s disinterest in verifying the legal status of the real estate property he intends to buy.
- Purchase of a number of real estate properties in a short period of time without expressing any interest in their location, condition, costs of repair and otherwise.
- Sale of the real estate property directly after buying it at a price less than the price of purchase.
- Client’s disinterest in putting his name on any file that may relate him to the property, or use of different names when submitting purchase offers.
- Buying real estate properties in the name of another person who is not clearly or justifiably connected to the client.
- Replacing the buyer’s name shortly before the completion of the transaction without sufficient or clear justification.
- To arrange the financing of purchase transactions, partially or in full, through an unusual source or an offshore bank.
- Dealers in precious metals and precious stones
- Client’s purchase of jewels of high value without selecting any particular specifications or with no clear justification.
- Client’s purchase of jewels whose high value does not correspond to what is expected from him (upon the identification of his profession or the nature of his business).
- To regularly purchase high value commodities or large quantities of a specific commodity in a way that does not suit the usual deals carried out by the client or the usual pattern of the business he pursues or his income or appearance.
- Attempt to recover the amount of new purchases without a satisfactory explanation or when the client tries to sell what he recently bought at a price that is much less of the purchasing price.
- Attempt to sell high value jewels at a price much less than their actual or market value.
- Client’s willingness to pay any price to obtain jewels of extravagant amounts without any attempt to reduce or negotiate the price.
- Client’s desire to create or buy a company that has a suspicious objective, does not realize profits or does not seem to be connected to his usual profession or related activities without being able to submit sufficient explanations to the notary.
- When the client sells assets or real estate properties repeatedly without realizing any profit margin or submitting a reasonable explanation in this respect.
- The client who creates or wishes to create different companies in a short timeframe for his own interest or the interest of other persons without reasonable financial, legal or commercial grounds.
- The client’s use of another person as a facade to complete the transaction without any legitimate financial, legal or commercial excuse.
- The value being disproportionate to the customer’s assumed resources in light of his/her declared profession.
- The outcome of the operations or the type of used currencies being disproportionate with the customer’s profession.
- Changing the gambling routines for a certain customer in disproportion with his/her income that was declared beforehand, e.g. if he purchases chips for a game that he/she does not usually play or if it has been found from the objective circumstances that he/she does not seek profit or is not concerned about losing.
- Buying gambling chips in cash, then requesting to exchange them with a cheque from the casino.
- Free Zone Businesses
- The commodity is transhipped through one or more jurisdictions for no apparent economic reason.
- Circuitous route of shipment and/or circuitous route of financial transaction.
- Types of products are more susceptible to ML, such as precious stones and metals, tobacco products, artwork, etc.
- The transaction involves the use of front (or shell) companies.
- Over invoiced exports involving tax haven jurisdictions.
- Entity’s only known premises are those of a corporate service provider (i.e. likely to be a shell company).
- General examples
- Connected to customers
- The customer has an unusual comprehensive knowledge of ML/TF issues and the AML/CFT laws if he points out, for instance, directly or indirectly, that he wishes to avoid being reported.
- Attempt to divide the amounts of any operations below the applicable designated threshold of reporting to the competent authorities regarding ML/TF suspicion if such threshold exists.
- The client’s raising the issue relating to the “cleanness” of the transaction, stating that it does not comprise ML or unnecessarily elaborating in justifying the transaction showing an unusual interest in the internal policies, controls, regulations and supervisory procedures.
- When the client has accounts with several banks or has lately established relationships with different financial institutions in a specific country without clear grounds, particularly if this country does not apply an acceptable AML/CFT system.
- The client is reserved, anxious or reluctant to have a personal meeting.
- The client uses different names and addresses.
- The client requests or seeks to carry out the dealings without disclosing his identity.
- The client refuses to submit the original files particularly those related to his identification.
- The client intentionally conceals certain important information like his address (actual place of residence), phone number or gives an inexistent or disconnected phone number.
- The client uses a credit card issued by a foreign bank that has no branch/headquarters in the country of residence of the client while he does not reside or work in the country that issued this card.
- Connected to transactions
- Cash transactions where banknotes with unusual denominations are used.
- Unusual transactions in comparison with the volume of the previous transactions or the activity pursued by the client.
- Unnecessarily complex transactions or those that do not seem to have an economic feasibility.
- Transactions that comprise a country that does not have an efficient AML/CFT system that is suspected to facilitate ML operations, or where drug manufacturing or trafficking are widespread.
- Connected to customers
- How to contact the FIU
For further information regarding the registration process and other obligations for DNFBPs, including procedures on how to report suspicious transactions, please visit the FIU’s website (www.fiubelize.org) or contact us:
Financial Intelligence Unit
4998 Coney Drive Coney Drive Plaza P.O. Box 2197
Belize City, Belize