Caribbean banks looking closely at ‘sou-sou’ savings

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada – The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) says as part of its efforts to combat financial corruption and money laundering, anyone now depositing funds into financial institutions achieved through the traditional form of savings, known as “sou-sou,” will now have to meet certain guidelines.

Sou-sou is a form of saving in which several people collectively contribute a specific sum of money into a pool for a specific period. Under the system, one person traditionally benefits on each occasion from the funds placed in the pool.

FIU head, Tafawa Pierre, said the new guidelines were introduced due to trends based on explanations from several people who made large deposits into financial institutions and claimed that those funds were gained from their participation in the “sou-sou” programme.

Financial institutions already have the right to ask for the source of funds once a deposit of EC$10 000 or more is made. However, smaller deposits within a period can be flagged within the internal system of the bank as one of concern and that will require a declaration.

“The guidelines provide for the depositor to justify to the financial institution the source of the money been deposited,” said Pierre, who explains that the proof includes a document from the leader of the “sou-sou” confirming that the person participated, the number of members and other documents that will confirm that the money was not gained contrary to the money laundering laws.

Pierre said that once a trend is observed and it is deemed to be at high risk or avenue to facilitate money laundering, the FIU is mandated to develop guidelines for that sub-sector. There are presently no direct guidelines for hucksters and fishermen as well as promoters in the entertainment business.

Grenada has several laws aimed at combating money laundering, corruption and terrorism financing. The measures being enforced by the FIU is all part of recommendations which the Financial Action Task Force has recommended for members.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body established in 1989.  Among its objectives are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

In the region, the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) is responsible for enforcing and overseeing the recommendation for the international body.