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Cooper deeply concerned by blacklisting

Following the revelation by the attorney general last week that The Bahamas will remain on the European Union’s list of countries with strategic deficiencies in anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT), Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Copper said he is deeply concerned by the grave consequences of being blacklisted.

Attorney General Carl Bethel said last week that The Bahamas was not able to get removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) gray list because the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions prevented a planned onsite regional visit last month.

In a statement yesterday, Cooper lamented the continued blacklisting and called for a greater investment in technology within the financial services sector.

“We are disappointed that the EU has continued to take these harmful actions and have made demands that go above and beyond the concerns of the Financial Action Task Force,” he said.

“We are also disappointed that we did not hear of any efforts to have a virtual onsite visit undertaken.

“These are very serious matters that threaten an industry that has already shrunk significantly. We wish to underscore our deep concern. We repeat the call to make deeper investments in technology and to increase the value proposition for financial services in The Bahamas.”

The Bahamas was added to the European Commission’s – a branch of the EU — list of countries with strategic deficiencies in AML/CFT in May.

Despite prioritizing financial service legislations and regulations, The Bahamas financial services sector continued to experience the heavy hand of international watchdogs like the EU, FATF and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Since 2017, when The Bahamas was only compliant with 18 of the 40 FATF recommendations, the government moved to pass laws to become compliant with 30 of those recommendations.

Copper also chastised Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Investment Elsworth Johnson for not giving a more substantive state of the industry, which is facing debilitating challenges because of the looming blacklisting, when he addressed Parliament last week.

“The [PLP] thanks the attorney general for answering the questions I put forth and for explaining the circumstances that will see The Bahamas continue to be on the EU’s gray list until at least 2021,” he said.

“It would have been preferable to have the actual minister of financial services take the time to properly brief the House of Assembly when these questions were raised last week, but I suspect he spent the time he should have taken to prepare his presentation looking for pictures of the opposition and having them enlarged in a sophomoric effort to score political points.”

It is unlikely that The Bahamas will have another opportunity to be delisted until the next plenary meeting of the EU in February 2021.

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