0

Bahamas ‘Unfairly Dumped On’ With Eu Blacklisting

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas was yesterday “dumped on” through its inclusion on another so-called financial services ‘blacklist’, although an ex-Attorney General and others suggested the development should be taken “with a big grain of salt”.

John Delaney told Tribune Business that the European Union’s (EU) decision to ‘blacklist’ the Bahamas, and 29 other small jurisdictions and international financial centres (IFCs), appeared to be based on “superficial and suspect” criteria.

The EU Commission said the Bahamas and other nations were listed because they were ‘not doing enough’ to crack down on tax avoidance by individuals and multinational companies.

The listing was published as the EU announced plans to combat corporate tax avoidance by companies. Pierre Moscovici, the EU’s top tax official, said: “These tax havens cover the five continents.”

He called on the Bahamas and other listed nations, who included Barbados and major IFC rivals, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Panama, Guernsey, Hong Kong and Liechtenstein, to quickly adopt “agreed international standards” to fight against tax evasion.

Mr Moscovici described the Bahamas and other listed jurisdictions as the EU’s “top 30” non-cooperative nations, based on the fact that they all featured on at least 10 ‘blacklists’ of EU member states.

Mr Delaney, who served as attorney general under the former Ingraham administration, told Tribune Business that the criteria employed by the EU in ‘blacklisting’ the Bahamas and others “appears to be suspect”.

Questioning what ‘not doing enough’ to combat tax avoidance meant, Mr Delaney said the Bahamas had complied with every global tax information and transparency standard emanating from the likes of the G-7 nations and Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).

He added that it had also committed to comply with the automatic tax information exchange standard that will take effect from 2018, thus directly rebutting Mr Moscovici’s call for the listed states to adopt “agreed global benchmarks”.

“All I can say to you is that it smacks to me of being quite unfair to the Bahamas, being so arbitrary,” Mr Delaney said of the EU ‘blacklist’, “and more of the same of being dumped on by very subjective and suspect criteria.

“Standards, we understand, are evolving, but when these standards evolve the Bahamas has consistently moved to ensure they’re aligned with best international practices, and that continues to be the case.”

Mr Delaney said the Bahamas had exceeded the OECD’s ‘information upon request’ standard by signing more than 30 Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs).

And the nation had committed to the automatic exchange of information on a bilateral basis, in compliance with the standards laid down by the OECD’s Global Forum, from 2018.

“Certainly, any listing that purports to be fair and doesn’t recognise that the Bahamas is in line with all current prevailing international standards, and has committed to be in line with evolving information exchange standards, any listing of the kind you reference has to treated with a big dose of salt as being suspect,” Mr Delaney told Tribune Business.

“The Bahamas, like any jurisdiction, cannot unfortunately help the fact they will be unfairly criticised. The only thing we can do is show we’re responsible, and responsive to any fair standard, and the Bahamas has done exactly that.”

Mr Delaney was backed by K P Turnquest, the Opposition’s deputy leader and finance spokesman, who agreed that the EU ‘blacklist’ should not be taken too seriously.

“I take it with a grain of salt,” Mr Turnquest told Tribune Business. “It is a fact of doing business in the offshore industry that you will be put on these kind of lists because of the perceived lack of transparency in these so-called developing countries.”

However, he urged Hope Strachan, minister of financial services, and Fred Mitchell, minister of foreign affairs, to “be on top” of this latest EU move and “get ahead of whatever bad publicity comes from this”.

And Mr Turnquest suggested that the Bahamas “form a coalition” with other ‘blue chip’ international financial centres (IFCs) on the EU list to raise the matter at the United Nations (UN).

“It is unfair the way they treat these jurisdictions,” he added. “Boy, it doesn’t stop.

“Certainly, it’s another strike on the Bahamas as a fair, clean and transparent jurisdiction for the legitimate and legal conduct of financial services.”

Mr Turnquest continued: “It is a further back hand to the entire offshore industry, which is unfortunate, but to the extent it affects us and there are any potential ramifications for the jurisdiction and the industry, certainly we would expect the Bahamas to respond.

“As the Prime Minister is still the sitting head of CARICOM, he ought to be driving a response through CARICOM to this issue. He’s been driving climate change, which is all well and good, and is a reality, but I don’t know if it’s priority in ensuring our people have a standard of living and way of life.”

Mr Turnquest said the then-FNM administration “took a lot of heat” for the way in which it responded to the 2000 ‘blacklisting’ by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

He added that while the resulting legislation and reforms were “not palatable to many”, the Government “had to do what it needed to do” to protect the Bahamian financial services industry.

The FNM deputy leader urged the Christie administration to adopt a similar approach to the EU listing, employing legislation, regulations or even “moral persuasion”, to protect the Bahamas’ reputation.

Yesterday’s EU list seems more symbolic than an actual threat, and there were media suggestions that its publication was designed to distract attention from the ‘tax avoidance/minimisation’ structures that companies have employed in one of its member states, Luxembourg.

Thus far, there appears to be no threat of sanctions or penalties by the EU towards the Bahamas and other listed countries, but the potential to deter European clients from doing business with this nation - and reputational fallout - cannot be underestimated.

The full list is: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Montserrat, Panama, Saint-Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Andorra, Guernsey, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Liberia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Brunei, Hong Kong, Maldives, Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Marshall Islands and Vanuatu.

Comments

banker 2 years, 5 months ago

Interesting that Singapore is not on the list, and from my perspective on the ground, Singapore is eating our lunch. I can't count how many clients from the book of business have ended up in Singapore after giving us the heave-ho. The most-often cited exit reason is the backwardness of our financial infrastructure.

There is a more active and proactive stance for wealth management, than burying it on a Caribbean beach. Clients want to be able to move money, securities, investments, portfolios, currency accounts and assets into and out of trusts at the speed of light, and we can't comply.

The old model of wealth management was to let the portfolio sit here, review the investment performance yearly, and make changes on a yearly basis. Now, clients want these services within 24 hours.

1

Stapedius 2 years, 5 months ago

Banker I couldn't agree more. We are always behind the ball on things. We have this sluggish approach to everything and expect to see progress. The simple truth is the government has to become leaner and more efficient. It should I hope, translate to quicker advancement in all sectors.

1

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 5 months ago

It's about time John Delaney, Brian Moree and all the others like them stop telling us that we must continue kowtowing to the bullying tactics of highly developed countries and groups of countries like the EU that seek to impose very costly and burdensome information gathering and sharing requirements on the governments of, and legal entities domiciled in, the smaller less developed countries like ourselves. Enough is enough. At very great cost to our government and the legal entities concerned that our domiciled in our country, these bullying highly developed countries seek to obtain assistance with the enforcement of their own tax laws against their own non-compliant taxpayers. They purport to seek this costly information gathering and sharing assistance from us (entirely at our expense with no real commensurate benefit for our government or the Bahamian entities concerned) so that they may derive significant additional tax revenue benefits for their own citizenry. The information gathering and sharing agreements we are effectively bullied into signing with these countries or unions of countries make no provision whatsoever for our government and the Bahamian domiciled entities concerned to be able to recover their significant additional initial and ongoing costs incurred as a result of their undertakings required by the agreements. This must end as our country's financial services industry is placed at a significant competitive disadvantage in terms of its cost structure compared to many of the financial institutions and financial services providers domiciled in the higher developed countries whose tax authorities avail themselves of the purported tremendous benefits of these information gathering and sharing agreements foisted on smaller less developed countries like the Bahamas. The sovereignty and fairness issues here must be properly addressed, and soon.

1

banker 2 years, 5 months ago

Unfortunately, the times have changed, and the tax haven is a dying thing. Within 10 years, the current operating model of closed information silos will be dead (and more than likely criminalised).

The trend is going to be creative tax avoidance (like the idea floated by the Swiss of an anonymous account tax paid to the EU Central Bank) rather than total tax avoidance.

I have seen two exits from The Bahamas of billionaires who have elected to repatriate their money to tax-friendlier jurisdictions and actually pay income tax on the earnings from their holdings rather than living behind the gates of Ocean Club Estates and Lifeless Cay.

They cited reasons (other than the primitive infrastructure) are being tired of being looked at in askance with their Bahamian passports that they got when they domiciled here. They didn't like the idea of getting a Schengen Visa and yet when presenting their own national passport, were subject to all sorts of taxations checks. (An ex-client of mine who's home country is Holland, drove to Belgium to fly out here, because even if you are an expat from Holland, you still owe health care tax, and they check as you exit the country). Their wives want to live in more exciting places with more shopping and culture. The kids need better schools. There is literally no shortage of reasons why high net worth individuals do not want to live here anymore, nor do they want their money here.

The bottom line, is that there is an exodus of capital under management, and it is a hemorrhage. We have to come up with something better and not those stupid SMART funds on BISX. We need innovation or the second pillar of our economy will crumble faster than the first.

Bucking the trend against the G20 will further degrade whatever business we have left.

0

GrassRoot 2 years, 5 months ago

Agree Banker, Bahamas has one of the least savvy immigration law of the planet. Who wants a Bahamian passport if you have to give up your Italian passport?

0

GrassRoot 2 years, 5 months ago

It is a game to squeeze the competition, Delaware will not be touched, the US does not participate in automatic exchange of information (well inward only via FATCA), the UK is the biggest Laundromat and applying an all crimes statute properly would land 50% of the suits on High street in jail with all the Kazach, Russian, Malaysian and African money. So David here (=Bahamas) has a simple choice. Play the game or stay out. Don't do half ass stuff. Bahamas is one of the only games in town for people that have a tax history and don't want to subject themselves to the automatic exchange of information: Give away residences for money, once they are residents of the Bahamas and have their money here, there is no basis for an exchange of information to other nations. But again the government is involved in bashing Rollins and Moss, and the arts of semantics on mortgage relief, drone legislation, and covering up the over spending on the Carnival. The train is leaving the station. It seems this Government has given up on the Financial Services Industry. Exactly what the big boys wanted us to do.

0

banker 2 years, 5 months ago

It's the Golden Rule -- he who has the gold, makes the rule.

1

Reality_Check 2 years, 5 months ago

Small wonder China is making such great in roads of influence in small countries like ours with limited financial resources. Whereas the Chinese generally offer a lot and ask for very little in return, the U.S. and OECD/EU countries typically ask for a lot and give very little in return. Why the hell are we enforcing on our dime the taxation laws of other countries that would not have so many tax cheats if their taxation laws were fairer or their governments were smaller, more productive and efficient to allow for much lower taxation rates?!

0

GrassRoot 2 years, 5 months ago

well, don't you think that the Chinese offered little to the average Bahamian for getting the Bahamian UN votes, making our kids pay off the interest rates on all the borrowed and blown away money?

0

GrassRoot 2 years, 5 months ago

so maybe AG's should hang out with the big guys in London, New York, Dubai, Zurich, Singapore, Frankfurt and lick the global powerbroker's behinds rather then the PMs in downtown Nassau. Might be more efficient (and the wines they order better as well).

0

Economist 2 years, 5 months ago

We wanted to be independent and it comes with a price . Either we negotiate what we can or they will shut us down. Here is how they do it. They refuse to clear any Euro transactions from Bahamas based banks.our the UK and the US refuse to clear their currencies as well we are out of business. Remember they are sovereign as well and can refuse if they wish.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 5 months ago

We are seriously disadvantage because we typically have morons negotiating for us in these matters. The idle threat of cutting us off from the world banking system is just that, an idle threat. The U.S. recently had to remove Cuba from its list of terrorist states as an increasing number of young Americans complain about there inability to travel there. As long as American and Europeans continue to enjoy their ability to travel to wonderful destinations like the 30 nations now blacklisted by the EU, it is highly unlikely any of these nations would be cut off from any part of the world banking system. We have seen in the case of Russia, North Korea, Iraq, Syria, etc. that whenever the U.S. and EU seek to wrongfully cutoff other nations from the global banking system it strengthens China's recent successes towards establishing the Yuan as a major global reserve and trading currency. The higher developed countries know full well that what they are requiring by way of the information gathering and sharing agreements is extremely costly for smaller less developed nations to comply with and, accordingly, some kind of reasonable cost recovery mechanism is warranted. Small less developed nations like the Bahamas can never be expected to put in place a regulatory environment on par with the much larger well developed countries. We simply do not have, and will never have, the economies of scale necessary to do so. The U.S. and EU should not be allowed to continue their unjust (and horribly self-serving) denial of this fact! If need be, they should be shamed into doing the right thing. And the right thing is for them to absorb the costs borne by others as a result of the long arm of their tax collection initiatives.

0

banker 2 years, 5 months ago

Yes I agree that we have morons negotiating for us. But how can you negotiate when they say you have two options: Take it or Leave It. And leave it at your peril.

It didn't help that they found Al Tawqa terrorist money here, or the Banco Ambrosiano scandal money years later. It doesn't help when we hide the Pirate of Prague, Victor Kozeny here. It doesn't help that we have guys like Julian Brown and Warren Davis laundering money and beyond the reach of the SEC, while doing it with securities under the purview of the SEC.

Our corruption, lack of adequate white collar crime legislation, and our Foreign Minister who actively dislikes and antagonizes the US will never sit well, and we don't have a real negotiating leg to stand on until we clean up our act.

For God's sakes, a virtually bankrupt entity is still listed in BISX. What a joke!!

1

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 5 months ago

It's common knowledge that more money laundering, tax dodging and terrorist financing activities take place in London, Frankfurt, Paris, New York City, Vegas and Delaware in any given week than has ever occurred in the entire life span of the Bahamas as an offshore financial centre!

0

Economist 2 years, 5 months ago

I agree that we cannot afford this. What we need to be negotiating for is as follows;

1.We will be happy to set up a department to follow up on your citizens AT YOUR COST. 2.We understand that these people have moved money into our country BUT it came out of YOUR banking system and we don't have the money to pay for YOUR failure to properly regulate YOUR banks. 3. We will cooperate BUT YOU MUST PAY for the cost of enforcement.

This would create a number of new jobs in The Bahamas

0

watcher 2 years, 5 months ago

Good luck going up against the UK, USA, France, Italy, Germany, Canada etc with that attitude. Not that I disagree in principal with what you're saying, but the Bahamas based banks that are holding the offshore monies for the individuals will, at the Head Office level, be domiciled in the countries I mentioned, and it would be oh so easy for their home governments to start fining them or shutting them down if the Bahamian subsidiaries do not comply

0

banker 2 years, 5 months ago

And if that happens, the Bahamian financial services industry will be dead, and there will be massive unemployment. The Bank of Montreal saw the writing on the wall years ago, and they divested and it became Bank of Bahamas. Now if CIBC got it idea to divest, there goes First Caribbean. Royal Bank is already looking to ditch its wealth management book of business in the Caribbean. Scotiabank is under stress and moved jobs to Jamaica. The Swiss bank come under new automatic EU information exchange in 2017-2018 time frame, so they will have no reason to be here. We really don't have a bargaining leg to stand on, AND the future looks grim.

0

Sign in to comment