Government is “pressing” the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to give The Bahamas its on-site visit before the body’s October plenary, when it will decide whether or not to de-list this country, Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday.
Bethel, who made the remarks in the Senate yesterday during his contribution to the 2020/2021 budget debate, explained that The Bahamas has included on the FATF’s gray list of countries with strategic deficiencies since June 2017 “due to the adverse mutual evaluation by the CFATF (Caribbean Financial Action Task Force) which was completed in 2015”.
Bethel said The Bahamas has made major strides to bring the country into alignment with FAFT regulations, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic stymied the on-site visit planned by the FATF for April this year.
“At the FATF virtual plenary held on June 16, 2020, they agreed to schedule the delayed on-site visit as soon as European borders are opened to international travel,” said Bethel.
“We are pressing for the FATF to agree to hold the on-site in time for the FATF to consider whether or not to de-list The Bahamas at its October 2020 plenary.”
Bethel added: “We had two years post the 2015 evaluation to correct the observed deficiencies, but little or nothing was done. It fell upon the FNM to shoulder the load of two years of failure to respond.
“We did so and thanks to the efforts of this government, with the able assistance of all regulatory agencies and with the full support of the private sector, we have prevailed to the point where, such was our progress, that the FATF agreed to an on-site visit, which is the first step towards exiting from the gray list. However, the pandemic intervened. The on-site which was originally set for April 2020 had to be indefinitely delayed.”
Bethel said the European Union’s (EU) recent blacklisting of The Bahamas was based on The Bahamas’ FATF gray list designation.
The European Commission (EC), a body of the EU, added The Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama and Zimbabwe to countries considered a threat to the European Union because of anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies.
“Dialogue at the highest level is being conducted with the EU, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bahamas Mission to the EU in Brussels, Belgium,” said Bethel.
“There are also developing contacts between the OAG (Office of the Attorney General) and the EC officials and we hope to have a familiarization visit as soon as travel to and from the EU is permissible. Certainly, nothing can be done on our part until our own borders are fully open, hopefully in July.”