Minister of Financial Services Brent Symonette yesterday defended the government following the country’s blacklisting by the European Commission (EC) and charged that the European Union (EU) “want our things”.
The commission said the country’s blacklisting was due to “strategic deficiencies” in its anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) legislation.
As he wrapped up debate on the Commercial Entities (Substance Requirements) Amendment Bill, Symonette said, “You can rest assured that the government of The Bahamas is committed, fully committed, to making sure we do everything within the sovereignty of our country to make sure that the financial services industry is protected.
“It is a very interesting time in that area because, not only the goalposts are moving, but they want our things, if I can put it that way.
“They want to make sure they get our business. We are a very well-regulated country. We [have] very high professionals that work here.
“We’ve dealt with, over the years, making sure the accounts that are here are high net worth, good accounts.
“We’ve worked at making sure that those accounts that shouldn’t be here have left the jurisdiction. We’ve done most things that are possible, sometimes to the detriment of all of us.
“…We have done our best to be a compliant successive government. We’ve done our best to make sure we have a high quality book here. I think sometimes [there’s] a consideration that we have more assets under management than we do.
“We are not a large money laundering area. Those are countries which I won’t name, but they are elsewhere in the world that have that ability.”
The commission said that it conducted an in-depth analysis that “assessed the level of existing threat, the legal framework and controls put in place to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing risks and their effective implementation”, and that it also considered the work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in determining the list.
The blacklisting not only poses potential harm to The Bahamas and its financial services industry through reputational damage, but it also stands to complicate financial relations with the EU, as European banks would be required to perform additional due diligence on financial operations involving entities from The Bahamas.
In a statement on Wednesday, Attorney General Carl Bethel said that the commission’s decision to blacklist The Bahamas was not justified.
He said The Bahamas was listed as a result of its placement on a FATF action plan last year, but that the progress The Bahamas has made since the implementation of the plan was not adequately considered by the commission.
After four United States territories were included on the list, the U.S. Treasury said it does not expect U.S. financial institutions “to take the European Commission’s list into account in their AML/CFT policies and procedures”.