Although it acknowledged the significant strides made by this jurisdiction, the European Union (EU) officially added The Bahamas to its list of third countries categorized as having strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) frameworks.
The Bahamas missed a critical component of being delisted after failing to be removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) gray list of the same heading – which required an onsite visit.
In a statement, The Bahamas Embassy in Brussels said, “While the EU acknowledges the significant strides and progress by The Bahamas for delisting by the FATF and is fully cognizant that The Bahamas was scheduled for removal from the FATF list in April 2020, the EU is unequivocal in its stance that unless The Bahamas is delisted by the FATF and meets the autonomous assessment criteria of the EU, The Bahamas will not be delisted by the EU.”
The embassy further stated, “This statement signifies that as a nation, The Bahamas must prepare for a strengthened and coordinated EU approach to preventing money laundering and terrorism financing.
“The embassy will remain arduous in its efforts and avail itself of all diplomatic channels and opportunities towards the removal of The Bahamas from the EU listing.”
Last week Attorney General Carl Bethel foreshadowed the blacklisting, noting that the matter was “beyond all of our control” given that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions prevented an onsite country assessment by the FATF.
The FATF advises the EU on which countries are compliant with its AML/CFT requirements. The statement noted that despite The Bahamas Embassy in Brussels’ “greatest efforts…the EU has remained intransigent in its position that its current actions are in the best interest of the Union”.
“The actions are perceived as a demonstration of its commitment to protect the integrity of its financial system by preventing financial flows involving countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism regimes,” the embassy said.
“This risk-based approach will require financial institutions and other obliged entities to take precautionary measures and apply due diligence in the conduct of transactions of financial flows to and from high-risk third countries identified by the EU.”
Bethel has said it is hoped that an onsite assessment by the FATF would be held in sufficient time for The Bahamas to get off the FATF blacklist at the earliest in February 2021.