By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
SENATOR Keith Bell said an unregulated ‘numbers’ industry could leave the door open to webshops possibly funding international acts of terrorism.
His comments came as he contributed to the Gaming Bill debate in the Senate yesterday.
Mr Bell, who is also the state minister of national security, said “regardless of the noise in the market” the compendium of Bills meant to revamp the country’s gaming industry are extremely important and must be passed for the government to be seen as serious in the fight against terrorism worldwide.
He added that the legislation would ensure that the integrity of the Bahamas’ banking industry remains intact.
Senators began debate on the Gaming Bill, the Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill, the Financial Transactions Reporting Amendment Bill and the Gaming House Regulations 2014 yesterday.
“We are here to ensure that we regulate money laundering in our country,” Mr Bell said.
“We want to prevent it and we also want to ensure that we guard against terrorist financing.
“When we talk about money laundering, a major concern for the Bahamas is to ensure that we guard against terrorism.
“So regardless of the noise in the market, we here today must ensure if only for that reason - to guard against terrorist financing - this piece of legislation must be passed.
“How much do you think is made a day from the illegal numbers racket?
“No less than $50,000 a day and I am being very generous and very conservative. (You) do the calculation we are talking about in excess of $20m a year.”
Mr Bell went on to make a case for the government’s decision to impose penalties on webshop operators who intend to remain open during the transition period ahead of regulation.
Some of those penalties will extend to the last six years depending on the time the webshop was in operation. The penalty is outlined in the Business License Act.
“The recoupment of back business license fees, the levy of penalties, and the current accrual of taxes are a testament to the fact that this is a matter that has not and will not be taken lightly. It is all about striking a balance and being a responsible Christie-led administration,” Mr Bell said.
The legislation is designed to put the Bahamas on par with leading jurisdictions and will lead to great economic benefits, Mr Bell said.