The European Commission (EC) yesterday officially added The Bahamas to its list of jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering / countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes.
The EC released its so-called blacklist, which added The Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar/Burma, Nicaragua, Panama and Zimbabwe, to countries considered a threat to the European Union (EU).
Attorney General Carl Bethel said this week that The Bahamas’ AML/CFT review by the Financial Action Task Force was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), a point the EC cites for adding The Bahamas to its latest list of non-cooperative jurisdictions.
“In October 2018, the FATF identified The Bahamas as a jurisdiction having strategic AML/CFT deficiencies for which The Bahamas has developed an action plan with the FATF,” the EC’s document said.
“The commission assessed the latest information received in this context from the FATF relating to these deficiencies and other relevant information. The Bahamas has taken steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime and in February 2020, the FATF has made the initial determination that The Bahamas has substantially completed its action plan and warrants an on-site assessment to verify that the implementation of The Bahamas’ AML/CFT reforms has begun and is being sustained, and that the necessary political commitment remains in place to sustain implementation in the future.
“The FATF has yet to carry out such assessment to confirm its initial determination. Therefore, the commission does not have in its possession information which would enable it to confirm at this stage that the strategic deficiencies have been effectively addressed.”
The Bahamas might have to wait until the FATF assessment is completed to be removed from the blacklist. Bethel said that assessment might not be able to be commenced until September because of COVID-19.
Bethel said Wednesday that he is confident that a visit by the FATF would mean the country’s removal from its grey list, and show that The Bahamas has made progress in its fight against international financial crimes.
“We are confidently aiming for that,” Bethel said.
“We feel that the progress we are making here in The Bahamas and the fight against COVID-19 is going in the right direction, except for one or two hotspots.
“So we are going to look to the future. It is impossible to remain in a state of paralysis because of a threat, and so we are positively recommencing all of our efforts to reengage with the international community and we will see where that takes us.
“Countries and regional blocs will often act in what they perceive to be their economic interest. There’s a difference, though, between protecting your legitimate economic interest and taking a hostile action against a friendly state.
“We would not wish to see a day when our partners in the fight against international terrorism, money laundering and financial crimes decides to take hostile action against us.”
Bethel said The Bahamas has shown good faith in its moves to enhance its capabilities to fight against the actions the EC contends the country is non-cooperative on.