Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday that while he is disappointed by the French government’s move to blacklist The Bahamas, the government cannot allow “hurt feelings” to get in the way of its international obligations and responsibilities.
“Despite the surprise attack by the French…we must not forget that we are a responsible member of the world community,” he said in the Senate.
“The same rules apply, sometimes apply disproportionately, but broadly speaking, apply to the whole world. I’m speaking to the Bahamian people.
“And as we reaffirm our commitment to having a world-class compliant offshore or international financial services sector and to play a meaningful role in the global economy, we accept the burden of compliance that comes with it.
“That is why my comments have been, from the beginning in this, [that] we will find out what the cause of the problem is and we will fix it. If we have been unfairly or unjustly or improperly accused on information, we will clarify the information.”
The Bahamas, Anguilla, the Virgin Islands and Seychelles were added to a French list of non-cooperative states and territories in tax matters earlier this week. In the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the French government’s decision and method of blacklisting The Bahamas was “disrespectful and disappointing”.
He said France did not make use of the dispute resolution mechanisms provided in the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters, which both countries are signatories of.
Bethel said the move was regretful.
“It has been an unfortunate circumstance that we were somewhat blindsided by the French government in a blacklisting, if you will,” he said.
He added, “I expressed regret that the French government deemed this step necessary. I think that we have to accept that they too are under pressure from their parliamentarians and sometimes countries that have these issues have to find someone to strike out at.
“But the fact is that whatever may be the alleged deficiency or deficiencies, I can assure the Bahamian public that the most stringent assessments are being conducted to determine exactly what the facts are in the Ministry of Finance and in my ministry.
“…The government will find out exactly whatever any deficiency is and I can assure the Bahamian people it will be remedied if in fact it exists.”
Bethel said records at the Office of the Attorney General reflect total compliance from The Bahamas.
“We are assiduously working across all ministerial boundaries, and finance is working as hard as the OAG to find out what the complaint is,” he said.
“So far as the Office of the Attorney General is concerned, all I can say is that our files do not reflect what the French document shows at all.”