By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Bahamas will come under investigation next week from the Organisation of American States to determine its compliance with anti-corruption measures.
Prime Minister Perry Christie revealed the onsite assessment as he underscored the external pressures that influenced the government’s decision to legalise and regulate the webshop industry.
The evaluation will set the stage for a national risk assessment by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in November 2015, according to Mr Christie, who said that the country had until then to show that it has “got it right”.
“The Bahamas government will have to entertain the investigation from the body of the Organisation of American States that deals with the anti-corruption convention we signed,” he said.
“They will come in to look at the economy of the Bahamas. Obviously we have an obligation to point out the vulnerable areas and they will assess it.”
Mr Christie said: “These agencies that come in speak to the government and speak to the opposition, they don’t come back and say well the opposition jokey, or the government jokey. They speak and they draw their own conclusions, but they judge an opposition but knowing that they are not the government they hold their judgment in abeyance.”
Mr Christie explained that the injunction order granted to web shops to prevent a shutdown following the outcome of the 2013 Gaming referendum, had put the underground economy under the international spotlight.
During his wrap-up contribution to the Gaming Bill, Mr Christie said he met with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) last Thursday. The bank has withdrawn its initial position on whether they will accept the proceeds of interactive gaming, according to Mr Christie, who said that RBC’s compliance department was now reviewing legislation and regulations.
“We made a decision as the government that we would proceed on the basis of improving the regime for casinos,” he said, “to make them more competitive, we would move to regulate and make lawful the existence of web shops under the most strongest conditions.”
He added: “We will spare no resources in assuring that when we are finished, we have complied with all the rules of integrity that the FATF would want.
Mr Christie said international agencies, in addition to the Central Bank, were now reviewing the new gaming legislation, adding that the true test will be its impact.
“I am satisfied that in all of the experience I have,” he said, “that we were motivated in good faith to achieve a strong regulatory regime that could withstand any kind of test and any kind of scrutiny, and that we would put in place a fair regime of taxation, that we would do no more and no less in terms of our approach to the locals as we would do for the foreigners.”
Mr Christie added that the government was responsive to constructive recommendations on the proposed legislation.
He referred to concerns raised by Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins, who took issue that the term “servers” was not included in the bill.
“We continue to be responsive to any recommendations,” he said, “with respect to servers being left out of the regulations, no problem, even though there is an interpretation under the word ‘maintenance’ that in itself meant from a legal view servers. We will put in the bill the word ‘servers’ because we are responsive to persons who would help us build a regime that we can feel good about.”