Now that the economy is partially reopened, the attorney general’s office has indicated that it is prepared to move forward with an assessment by the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) to be removed from the European Union’s list of high-risk third countries with strategic anti-money laundering/countering the finance of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies.
Originally, Attorney General Carl Bethel indicated that the country may have to wait until September for an assessment because of restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Having now reached stage 1B in the national plan for reopening the economy, The Bahamas is ready to accommodate the on-site visit at any convenient time going forward,” noted a just-released question and answer paper on the EU listing by the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs.
Last week, the European Commission officially added The Bahamas to a blacklist along with Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar/Burma, Nicaragua, Panama and Zimbabwe.
This came despite a constant focus by the Minnis administration to remediate the legislative and regulatory deficiencies pointed out during the last assessment in 2018.
The FATF has acknowledged that The Bahamas was primarily included on the list because of the delayed on-site assessment of the country’s anti-money laundering framework, which was scheduled for April, but was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the listing doesn’t take effect until late this year, the attorney general’s office is seeking to have the assessment as soon as possible.
“The AML list published by the EU Commission is a proposed list, is not yet final and it is not yet formally adopted by the EU. The EU Commission has the delegated authority to propose a list. However, the EU Council and the European Parliament have one month to object to the EU Commission’s assessment. If either body objects, the list will not be finalized and will not be formally adopted,” the paper states.
“This was what happened to the list proposed by the EU Commission in 2019, which was rejected by the EU Council on the basis of the inclusion of Saudi Arabia and four U.S. territories, each of which provoked objections from some member state governments. If the list is finalized and adopted by the EU, it will go into effect in October 2020.”
The question and answer paper notes that The Bahamas remains fully committed to the highest standards of compliance with every internationally agreed standard of conduct.
“Again, The Bahamas will continue to liaise with the FATF to ensure the on-site inspection takes place as soon as possible, with a view to The Bahamas being removed from the ‘grey list’ prior to finalization of the EU AML blacklist in October 2020,” it states.