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Bethel: Bahamas could host FATF regional assessment visit in late August

The Bahamas could be the host for the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) regional assessment visit in late August, Attorney General Carl Bethel told Guardian Business yesterday, though the government is waiting on feedback from various groups regarding, most importantly, their travel statuses due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Bethel said The Bahamas has agreed in principle to host the meeting of the FATF review groups and other countries from the region in need of assessment, but contended that a lot depends on the health, safety and travel protocols of each country.

“The issue right now is we were asked whether we were prepared to host all the countries in the region,” said Bethel.

“We indicated our willingness to host, we indicated what the travel protocols are and we indicated the likely venue and we are waiting to hear from them now, so we are in active dialogue with the FATF with a view toward having the onsite visit.”

Bethel said there are several countries in the region in need of assessment by the FATF.

This assessment by the FATF could be The Bahamas’ ticket off of the European Union’s (EU) blacklist, where the country was placed in May while in the thick of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The European Commission (EC) 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, a body within the EU, 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 union.

The upcoming onsite visit will be an important step to being removed from the blacklist, as a delegation from the EU is expected to attend the assessment.

“We’ve already given our consent to host all of the matters in our region…to welcome all of the countries and their delegations as well,” said Bethel.

“It’s really only a question now of ensuring that all of the protocols for travel are followed and it’s a question of when the FATF’s review group, the International Cooperation Review Group…can marshal themselves conveniently.”

Bethel said the government would have preferred to have the review done at the end of this month, but the timing was not convenient.

“It’s looking like the second or third week in August now,” he said.

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