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Ralph Gonsalves at crime symposium 2

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at the symposium in Trinidad on Monday, April 17, 2023. (Photo: Dr Keith Rowley/Facebook)

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Money from criminal activity, including illegal drugs, is making its way into the formal economy through legitimate business used to launder the proceeds of crime, says Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

“… we have to follow the money across this Caribbean,” he told the two-day regional symposium on crime in Trinidad on Tuesday.

“People complain that you catch the smaller fry but Mr. Big escapes because they’re linking the crime, naturally, and there is much linkage between that and drugs or other kind of economic activity from the proceeds of crime,” said Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security. 

He noted that the region has a lot of regulations and laws dealing with money laundering.

“If you make a lot of money off drugs, you import the drugs illegally, you sell the drugs, you get foreign currency. You can’t change the foreign currency easily or lodge it in the banks,” he said.

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“So, it has to be cleaned somewhere else and it is often cleansed in perfectly respectable enterprises. People who have restaurants, people who have supermarkets, people who have legitimate businesses where it is very difficult to say where this money comes from,” the prime minister said.

He said he was “speaking some very uncomfortable things,” adding, “But we are not going to address this problem very seriously unless we speak of uncomfortable things and take action regionally in relation to these uncomfortable matters.”