National Security Minister Wayne Caines has announced a moratorium on grants from the Confiscated Fund from the Proceeds of Crime for the ‘Cash Back for Communities’ initiative because the fund that supports it was “substantially depleted” prior to his appointment.

The fund, established under amendments legislated in 2013 to the Proceeds of Crime Act, “gave rise to the scheme of grants under the previous administration.

In his first Ministerial Statement on Friday, Mr Caines said: “Upon my appointment and on making the necessary inquiries of the Ministries of Finance and Legal Affairs, I found that the Confiscated Assets Fund was substantially depleted to my taking office and insufficient funds remain to do so.

“I am advised that the majority of the funds that were available for grants of this kind were devoted to another purpose permitted under the Act, namely to meet the expenses of the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee,” said Mr Caines.

“In light of the state of the Fund presently, I must advise this Honourable House and the public that a moratorium on such grants from the Fund is necessary at this time to permit them to be sufficiently replenished. Given the nature of how these funds are obtained the timeline for replenishment is unpredictable.”

The Minister stressed that “it is important to note that payments from the Fund are in fact the purview” of his parliamentary colleagues, the Minister responsible for Justice (who sits in another place) and the Honourable Premier, the Minister of Finance only”.

“Therefore, neither I nor did the former Minister of National Security have authority to do so,” he said. “The Ministry of National Security appears to have been engaged as a ‘middle man’ in considering and commending grants requests for the consideration of the relevant Ministers.

“Any misunderstanding in this matter is regrettable, Community organisations will continue to benefit from grants under this legislative provision and once the Fund is replenished this Government will aim to disburse funds in keeping with the spirit and intent of the law,” he added.

But for now, any club or organization looking to benefit from the ‘Cash Back for Communities’ grants, will have to put their requests on hold.

Mr Caines told MPs that since his appointment, he has “been presented with a number of requests by various charities for funds that were sought through the previous Minister, to be disbursed from the Confiscated Assets Fund (CAF)”.

“I have now responded in writing to the individual entities that have contracted the Ministry requesting that the undertakings given by the previous Administration be honoured.”

But he said: “Regrettably, I have advised these worth organizations that the promised grants cannot be provided from the Fund at this time.”