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Financial Intelligence Unit overhauled

A major overhaul of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is underway, aimed at demonstrating to the international financial community The Bahamas’ commitment to anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) and addressing criticism in regards to too few suspicious transaction reports (STR), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said.

Former Deputy Commissioner of Police Quinn McCartney was appointed director of the new unit in January, The Nassau Guardian understands.

Last October, Turnquest vowed to “beef up” the FIU after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) listed The Bahamas as one of 11 jurisdictions considered to have deficiencies that pose a risk to the international financial system, particularly with regard to its FIU.

“This year we have upgraded our Financial Intelligence Unit. We have engaged new leadership with a new director, Mr. Quinn McCartney, former deputy commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force. We’ve also added to the compliment of the FIU staff by hiring a forensic accountant, and we will continue in accordance with the human resources plan that has been put forward by the director to supplement the human resources capabilities of the FIU with additional forensic accountants, additional analysts and additional informational technology experts, so that we have a fully functional, fully qualified FIU,” Turnquest said Wednesday in the House of Assembly.

“We have also begun sending out our analysts for international training, both in the United States as well as there is some training coming up in Central and South America, and we will do more of this. In addition, we want to recruit some young talent that we can recruit to the FIU both in the U.S. and the UK and other jurisdictions, so that we learn best practices and we come back with the network and support we need to ensure that not only are we effective, but we are seen to be effective.”

In addition to increased and dedicated human resources, Turnquest said the ministry of finance has recently approved the acquisition of new IT equipment for the FIU and is working in tandem with the attorney general’s office as it prepares to acquire a $2.3 million system that would track STRs.

“I can tell you, when I first walked into the FIU and they showed me the computer room, I have not seen beige computers since I don’t know, the beginning of my career. If you see a beige computer, trust me that’s at least the 1980s. It tells you that the FIU has been neglected over the years. Well no more, we’ve signed a contract and they have begun the upgrading of that technology, so that they have the latest available software and hardware to do the work that they do,” he said.

In its review of The Bahamas’ compliance with AML/CFT standards, the FATF pointed out deficiencies with FIU regarding how it receives STRs, and efforts to close the loops with respect to completing investigations, determining their credibility for prosecution and documenting how those cases are handled once closed.

“One of the criticisms from this report and the FATF has been that we have not been able to document the disposition of STRs and this system will allow us to track. Also, at the attorney general’s office, they are in the process of acquiring a $2.3 million case management system that will also allow us to be able to track this system through the judicial system and be able to provide real time status of these cases,” Turnquest said.

“The system that we are implementing is a state-of-the-art system that is being used throughout the jurisdiction and will allow for more effective communication and updating of the records of these cases as they go through.”

Both systems, the minister noted, would result in a much more efficient reporting system.

“I am pleased to say to the financial institutions that have been making these reports and have not been getting the kind of response and efficient resolution of their inquiries, that through the use of this technology and through the software that is being implemented now, we should start to see a very significant improvement in the feedback, so that we close the loop on these suspicious transaction reports very quickly,” he said.

“The technology will also help us to liaison with the police force and the commercial crimes unit, where they do the actual criminal investigations so that the feedback loop between the collection and analyzing of the suspicious transaction report and the investigation can flow back and forth effectively.”

Chester Robards

Senior Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian.
Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism
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