The European Union (EU) has rejected the European Commission’s recent proposal to blacklist 23 countries, including The Bahamas, for lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering.
The Bahamas was blacklisted by the commission on February 13 along with Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Panama, several United States territories and other jurisdictions.
The commission said The Bahamas had “strategic deficiencies” in its anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) legislation.
Last month, it said that it had 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.
However, multiple online sources have reported that all 28 EU member states have rejected the blacklist.
In a draft statement, which was obtained and released by Politico, the EU said, “To achieve the full impact of this instrument and to ensure its quality we need to introduce the list in an orderly process.”
It continues, “Therefore…we cannot support the current proposal that was not established in a transparent and credible process that incentivizes affected countries to take decisive action while also respecting their right to be heard.”
In recent weeks, the Bahamian government has vowed to push back on the blacklisting.
Last month, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the listing was not justified while Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest outright rejected it.
Yesterday, Bethel told The Nassau Guardian that the rejection by the EU is “a good sign but undoubtedly, knowing the Europeans, they’re going to come back with some other list and it’ll still be an uphill battle, but hopefully they would’ve learned from their mistake of non-consultation and operating on bad information”.
When reached for a comment yesterday, Turnquest said the commission’s characterization of The Bahamas has been “seriously deficient and harmful”.
“…It was overly aggressive and did not take into account all of the improvements that have been made from a systematic point and the work that we continue to do to strengthen those areas where they have additional concerns,” Turnquest said.
He added: “The truth of the matter, as we’ve been saying, is that The Bahamas has been working very diligently to address all of the concerns that have been raised in the evaluation reports and we’ve made significant progress.
“In October of last year, we were reevaluated and deemed compliant or largely compliant on most of the outstanding issues that had been identified. We continue to work on the remaining issues very aggressively with a timeline in mind for September when we will have our next review.”
The blacklisting not only posed potential harm to The Bahamas and its financial services industry through reputational damage, but it also stood 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.
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.”