Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 1 - Trinidad and Tobago

Overview: The threat from ISIS sympathizers in Trinidad and Tobago and the possible return of persons who traveled, or attempted to travel, to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS are the primary terrorism threats in the country.

Trinidad and Tobago and the United States continue to cooperate on CT investigations involving Trinidad and Tobago nationals. In 2019, Trinidad and Tobago substantially completed an action plan to address deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism regimes identified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 2017.

2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist incidents reported in Trinidad and Tobago.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Trinidad and Tobago’s counterterrorism institutions remain challenged by deficiencies in staffing, interagency coordination, and funding. There are ongoing efforts to break down existing silos within the government, but distrust continues to impede coordination. Though no significant terrorism-related prosecutions have been initiated, a lengthy judicial process can mean years before criminal prosecutions, including any related to terrorism, are or would be resolved.

Trinidad and Tobago has not changed its Anti-Terrorism Act since 2018. A 2019 amendment to the country’s general law governing the availability of bail for criminal defendants now prohibits bail for anyone charged with certain offenses under the Anti-Terrorism Act that carry a jail sentence of 10 years or more.

The government’s efforts to strengthen criminal justice institutions in 2019 included updated plea-bargaining and bail provisions and the introduction of judge-only trials, new courts, and improved technology to speed the disposition of criminal cases. The government also introduced draft legislation to enable new procedures for law enforcement officers and witnesses to identify suspects in criminal proceedings, to require audio or video recordings of suspect interviews, and to protect witnesses and victims testifying in court.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continued preparation of an operational plan to implement a national counterterrorism strategy adopted in 2018. An interagency government task force created in 2018 to develop policies related to the possible return and reintegration of FTFs and other persons who traveled to the Middle East to join ISIS continued its work in 2019.

Trinidad and Tobago institutions have demonstrated the capability to detect, deter, and prevent acts of terrorism with the assistance of international partners. The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), including its Special Branch, Special Investigations Unit, and Financial Investigations Branch, is the law enforcement agency with primary responsibility for investigating terrorism and terrorism finance cases. Trinidad and Tobago’s Strategic Services Agency, Defense Force, Prison Service, Immigration Division, Customs and Excise Division, and the Financial Intelligence Unit support the TTPS’ activities. The TTPS has conducted vulnerability risk assessments of soft targets and national critical infrastructure.

Trinidad and Tobago continues to collect and analyze API and requires commercial air carriers to transmit information on all passengers and crew members on inbound flights and certain outbound flights to the Joint Regional Communications Center operated by the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security. According to the Trinidad and Tobago government, it also maintains a national watchlist of persons of interest to national security, which can include persons suspected of engaging in terrorist activity. The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard increased patrols of its southern maritime border, which is less than 10 miles from the coast of Venezuela.

The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service created a high-risk management unit in 2018 that was designated in 2019 as the primary unit responsible for dealing with any FTFs should they be incarcerated upon their return.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of CFATF. Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago, is a member of the Egmont Group.

In October, the FATF made an initial determination that Trinidad and Tobago has substantially completed its action plan to address identified strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering AML/CFT regimes, subject to verification that implementation of these reforms has been sustained.

Trinidad and Tobago passed legislation in 2019 requiring non-profit organizations (NPOs) to register with the government and subjecting these organizations to oversight by the FIU. The government also carried out a risk assessment of NPOs, including with respect to terrorism finance. Several government agencies conducted outreach and issued guidance in 2019 to regulated entities on their obligations regarding terrorism finance and persons sanctioned under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Trinidad and Tobago also passed legislation to allow for civil asset recovery and “unexplained wealth” orders, though a new agency must first be created before civil asset recovery is fully operational. The country also passed amendments to its Companies Act to compel more adequate and accurate beneficial ownership information.

Trinidad and Tobago continued in 2019 to list individuals and organizations domestically that have been designated under relevant UN terrorism-related sanctions regimes using the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act. There have been no persons charged or prosecuted for terrorism financing to date, nor has the government identified and frozen the assets of any persons designated under either UN sanctions regimes or domestically. The Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs established an Anti-Terrorism Unit to manage designations and other functions of the Attorney General’s Office pursuant to the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

Countering Violent Extremism: The Trinidad and Tobago government completed the final draft of a national “Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism” plan; final government approval of the plan remains pending.

Trinidad and Tobago’s National Crime Prevention Program continued its outreach to vulnerable communities in the country, and the TTPS increased its engagement with youth in high-risk areas through its use of youth clubs, sporting events, and partnerships with local NGOs.

In June, Trinidad and Tobago government representatives presented at a conference with leaders of the country’s private sector as part of an effort to systematize funding for civil society organizations working on CVE issues. The Trinidad and Tobago government also spoke at and participated in a workshop in November with representatives from the country’s Muslim community to encourage collaboration on a rehabilitation and reintegration plan for possible returning ISIS-affiliated Trinbagonian nationals.

International and Regional Cooperation: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism. Trinidad and Tobago is also a member of CARICOM and is working with other CARICOM member states to implement a regional CT strategy adopted in 2018.

Trinidad and Tobago has partnered with Hedayah, the Global Counterterrorism Forum, and the UK Commonwealth Secretariat, among others, to develop its national CVE plan. The UN is assisting the government’s inter-ministerial committee to implement Trinidad and Tobago’s national counterterrorism strategy; in September, the UN and Trinidad and Tobago announced the country will host a regional CT conference in 2020. The International Institute of Justice and Rule of Law has provided training to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and others on developing terrorism-related cases.

The city of Chaguanas in Trinidad is a member of the SCN.