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Trinidad & Tobago - Corruption

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices. There were reports of government corruption during the year, and the 2016-17 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report ranked corruption as the second-most problematic factor to doing business in the country. There were no documented instances of individuals receiving a criminal punishment for alleged corruption.

There were continued allegations that some ministers used their positions for personal gain. In December 2015 the incoming minister of energy fired Super Industrial Services, a favored contractor of the former government, for being more than 50 percent behind schedule on the construction of a one billion TDD ($158 million) water treatment plant, for which it already received 760 million TDD ($121 million). The company owner, Krishna Lalla, shielded his assets behind a third company and abruptly left the country for Panama days after the September elections resulted in a new government.

Trinidad and Tobagos judicial system is widely perceived as corrupt. Case backlogs and judicial inefficiencies mean that those indicted for a crime often face long periods of pre-trial detention. The police force is generally distrusted by the population, and it has faced accusations of excessive use of force. Corruption in the police and immigration services continued to be a problem, with senior officials acknowledging that officers participated in corrupt and illegal activities. There were allegations that some police officers had close relationships with gang leaders and that police, customs, and immigration officers often accepted bribes to facilitate drug, weapons, and human smuggling and trafficking. There is no internal affairs unit responsible for investigating incidents of professional misconduct attributed to law enforcement officials.

In August 2016, two police officers were arrested and charged with taking bribes. The two men allegedly were paid approximately $1,270 Trinidad and Tobago dollars (TTD) ($190) to forgo arresting a man. The officers were charged and released on bail.

The country's location just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela makes drug trafficking a major challenge. Narcotics from South America transit Trinidad and Tobago's waters or move through the airports. Illegal drug use and trafficking are increasing and so are attendant societal ills. The narcotics trade is likely linked to the ever-increasing number of murders and other violent crimes that plague the country. The government faces an uphill battle in trying to control these problems, exacerbated by inadequate border controls, corruption in the police service and an inefficient judiciary. Trinidad and Tobago's vibrant petrochemical industry has the potential for precursor chemical diversion for use in illegal drug production. The country's growing economy, well developed banking sector, communications and transportation systems, facilitate a significant number of sizeable financial transactions that can obscure money laundering.

Trinidad and Tobagos close proximity to drug producing countries, relatively stable economy, and developed financial systems make it a target for criminals looking to launder money. Proceeds from drug trafficking, illegal arms sales, fraud, tax evasion, and public corruption are the most common sources of laundered funds and are derived from both domestic and international criminal activity. Narcotics trafficking organizations and organized crime entities, operating locally and internationally, control the majority of illicit proceeds moving through the country.

Money laundering also occurs outside the traditional financial system. While public casinos and online gaming are illegal in Trinidad and Tobago, gamblers take advantage of private members clubs, which operate as casinos and are able to move large amounts of cash due to Trinidad and Tobagos lack of adequate supervision of this sector. Reports also suggest that certain local religious organizations are involved in money laundering.

Bribes are not regularly required to facilitate routine operations; however, reports of corruption are common. Allegations seldom work through the legal system, resulting in a scarcity of cases with legal outcomes.

Various pieces of legislation address corruption of public officials:

  • The Integrity in Public Life Act requires public officials to disclose assets upon taking office and at the end of tenure.
  • The Freedom of Information Act gives members of the public a general right (with specified exceptions) of access to official documents of public authorities. The intention of the Act was to address the publics concerns of corruption and to promote a system of open and good governance. In compliance with the Act, designated officers have been appointed in each Ministry and statutory authority to process the applications for information.
  • The Police Complaints Authority Act establishes a mechanism for complaints against police officers in relation to, among other things, police misconduct and police corruption.
  • The Prevention of Corruption Act provides for certain offences and punishment of corruption in public office.

The laws are non-discriminatory in their infrequent application. The laws do not extend to family members of officials or to political parties. TTs rank in the Corruption perception index has trended downward since 2001. The local press actively reports on allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse of public resources. Successive governments have been elected on mandates to stop corruption. The current government says it will pursue whistleblower legislation, procurement reform, and campaign finance reform.

In recent years, the GOTT has established a number of commissions of inquiry into inappropriate conduct in public contracting, but no one has been found guilty. The fine for non-appearance at the commission of inquiry is US$300. Some private companies, particularly the larger ones, use internal controls and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. There are no protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption.

TTs procurement processes are not fully transparent. U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI, specifically in government procurement. Government ministries and special purpose public companies have, on occasion, manipulated or bypassed established procurement procedures to favor specific vendors, raising questions about the governments commitment to transparency. Nevertheless, a number of U.S. companies have secured government service contracts in recent years. TT is not a party to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement.

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Page last modified: 23-05-2017 15:48:44 ZULU