The financial services sector has its eyes set on being removed from one final blacklist, Attorney General Ryan Pinder said, adding that the government is working with the European Union’s (EU) director general for financial stability to get the country delisted from the EU anti-money laundering (AML) blacklist.
He said the sector in recent years has endured three black or grey listings, including the EU blacklist of non-cooperative countries on tax matters and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list, from which the jurisdiction has recently been removed.
“We do believe that we have been able to submit a good case for the country to be delisted from the EU AML blacklist and we are currently awaiting further communication from the office of the EU director general for financial stability regarding the same. We are quite aware that all efforts ought to be concentrated on such delisting due to the negative impact it has had on financial services and the wider economy in transacting business with Europe,” he said while addressing the Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers’ (BACO) Money Laundering Reporting Officers (MLRO) Day event yesterday.
“It is a critical time for decisive measures in the fight to secure our financial center from being in the head lights of international agencies and economic blocks such as the OECD and the EU. Some of these measures have already bore fruit and some are in play as noted before, with the EU director general of financial stability. We will need the industry, professionals such as yourselves and all stakeholders of the financial sector to do your part as gatekeepers in ensuring that entities and individuals seeking to abuse our financial institutions, products and services are snared in their schemes and scams and any penetration of our systems – security, payments, IT and beneficial ownership portals – is able to be expeditiously identified and tightly secured.”
The former Minnis administration placed heightened focus on passing critical legislation to shore up the financial services sector and ensure The Bahamas is compliant with global best practices.
Pointing to the recent release of the Pandora Papers – which reveal millions of leaked financial records of some of the richest world leaders and where they hid away billions of dollars in assets in offshore havens – Pinder said there were no breaches in the local system and urged stakeholders to complete new assessments to ensure any emerging risks are captured.
“Immediately upon the release of the Pandora Papers, BDO Consultants, the provider responsible for hosting our beneficial ownership secure search system (BOSS), was contacted to give us a report on the system’s security and to identify any breaches, if any occurred. We were notified and given a comprehensive report that reflected no breaches occurred. The system’s audit revealed a solid infrastructure protecting the beneficial ownership information uploaded to BOSS. We can least afford to have any financial service provider’s IT system being breached and information stolen. We were fortunate that none of your institutions were targeted,” he said.
“We wish to stress here that now is the time to perform those security IT audits and attend to any weakness identified. This is one of those decisive measures that need to be taken by all stakeholders, to ensure that no breach appears in the gates. Breaches like that of the Pandora Papers can deal a devastating blow to financial centers such as ours. One of our defenses against such reputation risk is strong IT security and the next needed defense is that of strong effective compliance programs.”