The government continues to be engaged at a high level with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the European Union (EU) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said yesterday, adding that much of the scrutiny this country has gotten from those bodies has been unwarranted and biased.
Turnquest, who was speaking at the Money Laundering Reporting Officers’ Forum, said this country’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) continues to strengthen its anti-money laundering and combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) framework.
“Over the years, The Bahamas has come under immense scrutiny by international peers and industry regulators,” he said.
“We know not all of this scrutiny has been warranted. We know there is a historical bias that influences the international gaze on The Bahamas. We know that geopolitics provides cover for certain territories while it exposes others to an uneven balance of power.
“That being said, we also know that we cannot afford to fall behind, and it’s in our best interests to continue improving, to continue innovating, to continue strengthening our industry. It is in our best interest to demonstrate to the world unequivocally that we are a well-regulated, wealth management jurisdiction.”
Despite the many changes to The Bahamas’ regulatory regime required by the EU, OECD and FATF, Turnquest said this country continues to be a “premier international financial center”.
“We have proven ourselves to be competitive, compliant and well-regulated, and every time we face a new obstacle, we rise to the occasion,” he said.
Turnquest added that the government has technical teams working to implement measures that will address substance and anti-ring fencing, two subjects that caused The Bahamas to prematurely end up on a black list early last year.
He said the government is taking a new stance on enforcement and calling on the criminal justice system to “discharge its role in a proactive and urgent manner”.
“This is why the government has provided additional resources to support our enforcement arm to conduct stronger investigations and recommend prosecution in cases where warranted,” said Turnquest.
“We need to ensure that we close the loop with respect to completing investigations that are launched as a result of suspicious transaction reports, and that we are either taking those that are credible to prosecution or otherwise exposing and documenting how we dispose of the other cases.
“Our desire and expectation as a government is to maintain our status as a premier IFC; and to set a gold standard for the effective management of AML/CFT risks.”
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