The Bahamas has been blacklisted by France, according to Gerald Darmanin, the French minister of public action and accounts.
Darmanin told a weekly French newspaper on December 1 that four new countries were blacklisted: Anguilla, the Virgin Islands, The Bahamas and Seychelles, because they are not cooperative enough in financial transparency.
His comments came one day before the French Court of Auditors released a report on France’s fight against tax fraud.
Seychelles will reportedly send a protest letter to the French prime minister over the matter.
Although The Nassau Guardian understands that the Ministry of Finance was made aware of the looming blacklisting last week, it appears that the government was taken off guard by the move.
“The Ministry of Finance, the competent authority in tax matters, has received no official notification of any new threatened blacklisting by any country,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The Bahamas is a cooperative partner on matters of international taxation and participate fully in the OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Global Forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.
“The Bahamas has requested official confirmation of the claims being circulated in the international media; and if true, the details of any perceived harm that would warrant the rumored hostile retaliatory action of blacklisting without an attempt to resolve the issue through mutual dialogue and considered action.”
It added, “The Bahamas has been celebrated in the last few years for its level of engagement and cooperation, having passed several major pieces of legalization to adopt international standards and exchange of information protocols.
“Any unilateral action by any country that conflicts with the framework established by the Global Forum, of which they are a member, undermines the very essence of the Global Forum’s structure and intent.”
A senior government official told The Guardian that the government believes the blacklisting may be related to France’s “concerns” that it was taking “too long to get requested information”.
The official noted that nothing was ever “escalated through the channels to say that they were having any issues”.
Less than a month ago, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said he had “no reason to believe that we are facing any blacklist”.
Last week, Turnquest and Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson traveled to Paris, France, for the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes.
Johnson last night denied that the trip was an attempt to prevent the blacklisting.
“It wasn’t,” he told The Guardian.
“[It] had nothing to do with it (the blacklisting). It was a scheduled trip on the Global Forum.”
In February, The Bahamas was added to a European Commission list due to “strategic deficiencies” in its anti-money laundering (AML) and countering terrorism-financing (CTF) legislation.
In October 2018, The Bahamas was placed on an FATF watch list after it satisfied only 17 of the required 40 FATF criteria.
However, by the end of 2018, The Bahamas was essentially compliant with 30 of the 40 requirements, a record similar to the United States.
Last month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said The Bahamas passed the latest assessment by the OECD.