By Youri Kemp
THE Bahamas has been praised for its efforts to tackle money laundering and the funding of terrorism in a new report by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – but Attorney General Carl Bethel said experts wanted to see further steps taken by the country.
Mr Bethel said a proposed site visit for this month would now likely take place in February next year.
He said: “No on-site for October. Not yet. But we hope in February that they will agree an on-site.”
The FATF released its revised “strategic deficiencies list” on Friday in which The Bahamas still features.
The report on improving compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and combatting the financing of terrorism (CFT) standards said: “The Bahamas made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) to strengthen the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime and address any related technical deficiencies.”
“The Bahamas has taken steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime,” said the report, including implementing items such as instituting a protocol and case management system to further enhance international cooperation; initiating risk-based supervision of non-bank financial institutions; and further implementing the recent Beneficial Ownership Law to ensure the timely access to adequate, accurate, and current basic and beneficial ownership information.
Mr Bethel said: “They (FATF) decided that they wished to see further implementation of the money laundering directive to prosecutors and investigators, as well as the pursuance of tax crime investigations. It is agreed that we have all relevant reforms in place and are implementing them, but wish to see further implementation.”
When asked if the freezing of assets was an overreach by the FATF, he said: “No, it is not an overreach. In proceeds of crime offences, asset forfeiture is the norm. The idea is to implement disincentives and to make it extremely difficult to benefit from the proceeds of crime.”
He also made clear that the government aims to fulfill a promise made last year to create a system involving financial services providers that would allow the government to access ownership details on all entities it acted as registered office for.
He said: “We have a Register of Beneficial Ownership Act, and we have the software search programme. We are working with all service providers to ensure full compliance. Basically, the largest providers have complied by and large, and we have extended our efforts to the other tiers, getting down to smaller law firms.”
The FATF cautioned that “The Bahamas should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies, including by: (1) demonstrating that authorities are investigating and prosecuting all types of money laundering, including complex money laundering cases, stand-alone money laundering, and cases involving proceeds of foreign offences, including foreign tax crimes; and (2) increasing the identification, tracing and freezing or restraining of assets and to present cases linked with foreign offences and stand-alone ML cases.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, K Peter Turnquest said in August that even though the government and financial services sector were making strides in becoming compliant with the standards of the FATF, the standards were changing.