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Fatf To Make Legacy Clients 'Challenging'

By NEIL HARTNELL Tribune Business Editor NEW Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plans to make tax evasion a predicate money laundering offence will make dealing with legacy clients "quite challenging" for Bahamian financial services providers, a well-known attorney has warned. Arguing that the Bahamas would likely be unable to avoid implementing the Paris-based FATF's strictures, Michael Paton, a former Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) chairman and partner in the Lennox Paton law firm, told Tribune Business that this nation's bank and trust companies would have to obtain certification from long-standing clients that the funds they were dealing with were not the proceeds of tax evasion. "Going forward, what we have to look out for is developments on the Tax Information Exchange Agreement fronts and new proposals coming out of the FATF," Mr Paton said. "Starting next year, they will come out requiring that tax evasion be a predicate offence for money laundering and proceeds of crime legislation." Mr Paton said Singapore had already moved to pre-empt the FATF action. Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), in an October speech, said the island nation was moving to criminalise the laundering of proceeds from tax offences. He said: "This is a pre-emptive move. In February next year, FATF is expected to take a decision on this matter. Singapore will fully align its regime to FATF's new requirements; not only because we are an FATF member, but more importantly, we want to discourage tax evasion monies from attempting to enter our system. As other jurisdictions tighten their regimes and tax evasion monies seek cover, Singapore is sending a clear message that it neither wants nor will tolerate these illicit inflows." In response, Mr Paton told Tribune Business: "I don't think the Bahamas can avoid that, but industry has to understand the impact on it. "That's going to make legacy business quite challenging, because now you're going to have to make sure, and get certification, that the funds you're dealing with cannot be characterised as tax evasion. "That will put you in a very difficult position dealing with that client. I don't think we'll be able to resist it, although it's a difficult concept to differentiate between funds derived from crime and those derived from tax avoidance purposes, but the OECD/FATF are working hard to blur the line. People have to get their house in order dealing with legacy issues."

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