New FIU director focused on improving unit
The state of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has been “like an albatross around our neck” as The Bahamas attempts to comply with the requirements of organizations like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), newly appointed director of the FIU Quinn McCartney said.
McCartney was speaking specifically about the most recent report on the FIU conducted four years ago by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), which revealed severely low investigation rates of suspicious transaction reports (STRs), that is still being referenced by international tax watchdogs like the European Union (EU) and the United States Department of State.
“The Bahamas participated in what they call a mutual evaluation by the CFATF back in 2015. The report was published in 2017. There were a number of issues that related to The Bahamas but specifically as related to the FIU, one of the concerns was the quality of the product that we were producing,” McCartney said in a recent interview with Guardian Business.
“The 2015 report is still being used by the European Union and now also by the United States State Department.
“This is sort of like an albatross around our neck. So we said okay, let’s see what we can do to improve our product. So that’s what my team and I have been focusing on since I got there.”
McCartney, a former assistant commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, was appointed director of the FIU in January, after Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest vowed to beef up the unit in the wake of the FATF’s assessment last year which listed The Bahamas as one of 11 jurisdictions considered to have deficiencies that pose a risk to the international financial system.
“One of the criticisms that they had specifically about the FIU was what they deemed the quality of our product. The assertion was that what we produced for the law enforcement agencies, particularly the Royal Bahamas Police Force, probably was not adequate enough, we didn’t do enough in-depth analysis with bringing charges for money laundering,” McCartney said.
“We’ve been battling back and forth with whether that’s quite true. But, we’ve decided to say look, there has been criticism about what are doing and after expressing this with the team that was in place – and I’ve commended them for the work they have done before my arrival so I’m not knocking the quality of the work they produced – but we realized what more can we do.”
Last week in the House of Assembly, Turnquest said the ministry has recruited a forensic accountant for the FIU and intends to increase the staff compliment of the unit to ensure it has sufficient human resources to properly function.
Turnquest also said there was a complete upgrade to the technical resources available to the FIU.
“We come under the Ministry of Finance, but we are loosely a part of the regulatory regime. We are not accountable to the government per se. We are financed by the government but we are supposed to be an autonomous body, because we are supposed to have the authority to investigate anybody. So if something comes across our desk that involves a politically exposed person we are able to investigate. Anyone,” McCartney said.
“We look at any aspect of what can be considered money laundering and any attempts to hide money from the proceeds of crime. It can be any type of crime fraud, drug trafficking, firearms trafficking. We work collaboratively with the RBPF, in particular the Financial Crimes Unit.”