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Cash crackdown - Corruption Commission wants Public Service to declare if they have more than $250,000

Published:Thursday | May 21, 2015 | 5:00 AM
Knight

Nearly two years after Parliament passed laws to criminalise transactions involving cash of more than $1 million, lawmakers yesterday pushed back at a proposal from the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) for public officials to be sanctioned if they fail to declare having more than $250,000 cash in their possession.

K.D. Knight was the most vocal opponent of the proposal, labelling it as "rubbish" and urging the CPC to "go after the forest and just leave the trees".

Knight said, too, that in declaring to the CPC that he keeps certain amounts of cash at home, people would be exposed to criminality.

"Don't let us try and do the ridiculous because we may end up being ridiculous, and that is what this suggestion is about. Scrap it! Nonsense!" Knight said.

"If I want to keep $1 million at my home, that is my business, and I may want to keep it there for a particular reason. You think I am going to tell these talkative persons, who are going to be in some rum bar telling John Brown, 'This man has $1 million at his home' and thereafter Minister [Peter] Bunting comes out to express some regret at the fact that my house was burgled?"

He added: "We have to understand the environment in which we live; we have to understand the culture of our people and laws must conform to that."

Justice Minister Mark Golding said Knight's comments were excessive and noted that the CPC has a responsibility to confidentiality and not to talk about declarations in rum bars.

Knight, however, insisted that "it happens", and further said, "I do" when Golding said he had no such evidence.

Golding said that cash is used for money laundering and tax evasion and said that he was surprised at Knight's position.

The CPC, in making the suggestion, told a joint select committee considering the Integrity Commissions Bill that the issue of undeclared cash has been a major source of concern for investigators who are examining statutory returns made by public-sector workers who are thought to be committing the offence of illicit enrichment.

"It has been affecting the determination of the commission as to whether or not to accept what you are being told or prepare the case for prosecution," David Grey of the CPC told the joint select committee of Parliament yesterday.

At present, public officials who earn more than $2 million per year are required to declare any cash more than $500,000 other than in the bank, which is held by the person making the declaration, and or his or her spouse, and or children, to the CPC.

The CPC wants the definition of cash broadened from solely bank notes to any financial instruments such as corporate paper, which are not held in banks that can me monetised.

high levels of scrutiny

Karen Seymour Johnson, senior deputy director of public prosecutions (DDP), said that being a public servant means that people should be subject to high levels of scrutiny.

"If it is that we are serious about transparency, we are serious about integrity, we have to put measures in place," she said.

"If you don't want to declare, you don't have to be a public servant," the senior DPP said.

Knight, however, said that her argument was illogical and that it was difficult to find a charitable way to respond.

Committee member Delroy Chuck said that the threshold should be increased, arguing that it should be set at the $1 million mark, which Parliament recently said should be the maximum amount of cash used for any transaction.

Committee member Kamina Johnson Smith, and Chuck's Opposition colleague, said she supported the retention of the declaration of cash but was uncomfortable with the expanded definition of the word cash.