Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe said yesterday he expects to update the Christie administration on the Financial Action Task Force’s recommendations for the highly anticipated Gaming Bill when Cabinet meets this week.
Mr Wilchcombe, who has ministerial responsibility for gaming, told The Tribune that while he intended to brief Cabinet sooner, other matters took precedence. He said officials are in the process of sifting through several documents and reports from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) with a view to incorporating the recommendations into the finished gaming legislation.
“The documents and reports are all in now and we are going into the final process,” he said. “They did give several recommendations and they also lauded us in a couple of situations saying we did a good job in what we were able to put together.
“So this week I’ll be briefing Cabinet on all they said and we’ll go from there.”
Two weeks ago, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson met with members of the FATF in Paris to gain insight on whether the proposed web shop regulations would stand up to international scrutiny on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing guidelines.
However, since her return from France, the media has had difficulty finding out the outcome of the proceedings as government officials remained tight-lipped when asked about the progress of the gaming legislation. On several occasions both Mr Wilchcombe and Mrs Maynard-Gibson said Cabinet had not been briefed and reporters would have to wait until that time for additional information.
Last week FNM Chairman Darron Cash criticised the Christie administration for failing to publicly report the FATF’s recommendations or making it clear how the government intended to address the concerns of local banks.
Last month RBC Bahamas confirmed that it was not allowed to do business with web shops regardless of their regulatory status given the sector’s “high risks” and international policy restrictions.
“There is no question that this entire process has been handled rather abysmally,” Mr Cash said. “As much as the Bahamian people want the government to complete this process in an honourable manner and has been reasonable in giving latitude to them to do so, they appear to be failing at every turn.
“It’s disappointing that despite our desire for some serious effort on the part of the government to keep Bahamians informed as to how this major policy is being developed, they have failed to do so at every turn. It’s disappointing that after the Attorney General went off to meet with international agencies, she has yet to give a meaningful report about what specific concerns were raised and what specific actions her government is taking to address those concerns.”