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Bethel: Bahamas to push back on EU blacklisting

The European Commission’s recent blacklisting of The Bahamas was “unwarranted, prejudiced and indefensible”, Attorney General Carl Bethel charged yesterday.

On Wednesday, The Bahamas was blacklisted by the commission due to “strategic deficiencies” in its anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) legislation.

The commission said 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.

Addressing the Senate, Bethel said, “Let me assure you, my fellow Bahamians, this [European Union] listing is unwarranted, prejudiced and indefensible. The government is pushing back, and we are seeking to do all we can to marshal international support against this botched, non-transparent, pre-judged, prejudicial and unjustifiable listing.”

He added: “How does it resonate in logic to lump a compliant and responsible country like the Commonwealth of The Bahamas with rogue states like North Korea and war-torn Yemen and Syria?

“…I wish to assure the Bahamian people that the government does have a strategy to oppose the listing and to seek the removal of The Bahamas from it. We are consulting with expert lawyers in Europe who are assisting us in a very focused strategy.”

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 European Union (EU), as European banks would be required to perform additional due diligence on financial operations involving entities from The Bahamas.

The European Commission’s statement said, “Banks and other entities covered by EU anti-money laundering rules will be required to apply increased checks (due diligence) on financial operations involving customers and financial institutions from these high-risk third countries to better identify any suspicious money flows.”

Bethel said the government objects to the listing because the EU has “utterly failed or refused to take into account the substantial progress that The Bahamas has made since October 2018”.

“They failed to take into account the fact that after October 2018, we were re-rated and upgraded in our technical compliance with the FATF 40 Recommendations from 18 to 30 out of 40,” he said.

“This is exactly the same level of compliance as the USA has. It places The Bahamas among the leaders in the world in having all the tools for one of the most effective and robust anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing regimes in the world.

“There are also procedural and legal grounds for our objections which we will be taking up with the commissioners. As an example, they should follow their own published methodology for assessment and should have regard to their own laws in deciding how to engage with other sovereign states.”

The U.S. Treasury recently issued a statement criticizing the methodology used by the European Commission after four U.S. territories were included on the list.

It 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”.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis travelled to Brussels in January to meet with high-ranking officials of the European Commission.

“The bilateral meeting was very constructive and provided The Bahamas with a significant opportunity to ensure the commission fully understands the scope of the efforts we are taking to adhere to global standards,” the prime minister said. 

Jasper Ward

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues.
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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