That The Bahamas was only briefly mentioned in the bombshell Pandora Papers released this week by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), shows how far this jurisdiction has come toward compliance with ever-changing international finance regulations, Attorney General Ryan Pinder said yesterday.
The ICIJ revealed it obtained millions of leaked financial records of some of the richest world leaders, indicating where they hid billions of dollars in assets in offshore havens.
Many countries, at the behest of international watchdogs like the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), have implemented laws making it illegal for their citizens or residents to hide their fortunes in offshore jurisdictions.
The Bahamas, unlike its financial services counterparts in larger, more powerful jurisdictions, has continued to face the heavy hand of international bodies which have for years “blacklisted” this jurisdiction for not having compliant legislative framework to prevent tax avoidance.
“I think we’ve always said, even back when I was minister of financial services, that all we’re looking for is a level playing field in our assessments and we’re working hard as a small jurisdiction with limited resources and limited technical abilities just like a lot of our regional partners in meeting the requirements of the expectations of the international community. You have seen we’ve worked hard, and in many cases to the detriment of our industry, we worked hard to be compliant,” Pinder told reporters just before the weekly Cabinet meeting.
“Now you would have noted in the Pandora Papers The Bahamas was not highlighted, although we may have been mentioned, we were not highlighted and I think that speaks to where we’ve come as a jurisdiction.”
The financial services sector has continued to shrink every year, as the country has sought to catch up with the legislative requirements and “ever-changing goal posts” as described by former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest.
The Bahamas was mentioned briefly by the ICIJ, which recounted how the family of a former Dominican Republic vice president moved its assets from The Bahamas to South Dakota shortly after the 2018 enactment of the Register of Beneficial Owners Act.
“I do condemn the international media organizations for breaching the data protection acts of respective countries and jurisdictions in effectively stealing this information. But I do know that in the Pandora Papers, for the first time I think in any of these public releases, that larger countries have been identified as being culprits, I guess you could say, with respect to these financial matters,” Pinder continued.
“So you know we look to advance the jurisdiction in financial services. I have had meetings with the industry represented by the Bahamas Financial Services Board, with the regulators as well as my colleague ministers who are who are involved in the portfolio. We are committed to having The Bahamas be respected and compliant with international best practices.”
He continued, “But unlike the former administration, we’re also committed to advancing new policies and new product offerings for the jurisdiction, so we can see parallel growth as we comply with the regulatory obligations that are imposed upon us. But like I said, we have always been a country and a jurisdiction and even a region that has looked for transparency, predictability and a level playing field.”
Former Attorney General Carl Bethel said The Bahamas would adopt the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting two-pillar solution to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy.
The Bahamas, which is considered a no or low tax haven, has agreed in principal to adopt the policy which calls for the implementation of a global minimum corporate income tax of at least 15 percent.