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Financial Industry In Confidentiality ‘Tsunami Wave’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Government ministers were yesterday accused of unleashing “a tsunami wave” that threatens to swamp the Bahamian financial services industry by publicly releasing confidential information belonging to the Save the Bays.

Fred Smith QC, the environmental group’s legal director, told Tribune Business that several of his clients “intend” to switch their financial business from the Bahamas after Save the Bays’ confidential financial affairs and e-mails were read out in Parliament.

He slammed the “irresponsibility” of Cabinet ministers, Jerome Fitzgerald and Fred Mitchell, and Water & Sewerage Corporation chairman, Leslie Miller, for disclosing private information under the protection of Parliamentary privilege.

And Mr Smith questioned “to what end, to what purpose” did they elect to destabilise the financial services industry through their “party trick” in the House of Assembly.

“This is a tsunami wave hitting the financial services industry, when Government ministers should be so irresponsible as to publish private correspondence and financial information to the world about our affairs,” Mr Smith told Tribune Business.

“I have a number of clients who have indicated their intention to leave this jurisdiction; people who have International Business Companies and run their financial affairs from here, since that e-mail release.

“There are others who have shared with me their concerns that the Bahamas has become an irresponsible and abusive state, where no one’s privacy is protected. Again, this has really sent a shockwave through the financial services industry.”

The Bahamian financial services industry, often described as the economy’s ‘second pillar’, relies heavily on ‘privacy’ and ‘confidentiality’ of clients’ financial affairs as a key selling point.

Any suggestion that this confidentiality could be jeopardised, especially by a sitting Government, could result in major clients electing to switch their assets and business to a jurisdiction they believe will better protect their privacy.

Many of the Bahamas’ high net worth individual clients reside in nations that suffer from high crime levels, or frequent social and political turbulence, and they could have their personal safety endangered by the leak of sensitive personal data.

“This is calamitous for the financial services industry in the Bahamas,” Mr Smith continued,”that ministers should so glibly use information to embarrass private organisations, and people not even associated with its internal affairs......

“I ask Mr Fitzgerald and Mr Mitchell: To what end, to what purpose did they destabilise the financial services industry with this party trick in Parliament, seeking to embarrass persons who could not defend themselves. This is an abuse of Parliamentary privilege.”

Mr Smith was backed by fellow Save the Bays director, Sam Duncombe, who in a statement released yesterday accused the two ministers and MP of an “obscene violation of privacy”.

“How does this look to the world of investors and bankers, knowing that when the Government wants to, it will spy on them?” Mrs Duncombe asked.

She described as “an outrageous assertion” claims by Government ministers that Save the Bays was seeking to destabilise the Government, and added: “It seems to me they are doing a pretty fantastic job of overthrowing themselves.

“We have been called the ‘Bahamian Hustlers’. That’s laughable: Who are bigger hustlers than this government?”

Mr Smith, together with fellow plaintiffs, the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay environmental group, and Zack Bacon, brother of hedge fund billionaire, Louis Bacon, subsequently obtained a Supreme Court injunction to prevent further disclosure of the documents obtained by the three MPs.

Mr Miller, during his mid-year Budget debate contribution, read out in the House of Assembly the alleged salaries being paid to Save the Bays members, which ranged from $90,000 to $250,000 per year.

Lakeisha Strachan, an attorney with the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Harry B Sands, Lobosky & Company, alleged in a March 18 affidavit that it was “clear” Mr Miller had seen a confidential document that “only a handful of people would have been legitimately privy to”.

The following day, Mr Mitchell, minister of foreign affairs and immigration, accused Louis Bacon of spending millions of dollars to “destabilise” the Christie administration.

Mr Fitzgerald, the minister of education, science and technology, then read out a private e-mail exchange between Save the Bays members and attorneys that was discussing a planned advertisement the group was preparing to take out.

“As with the financial records, only a handful of people would have had access to the above e-mail chain, and nobody was entitled to make it public,” Ms Strachan alleged.

“It is apparent, therefore, that there has been a leak of confidential and/or private documents relating to Save the Bays and its directors.”

Mr Smith yesterday conceded that Save the Bays and its members did not know how the group’s confidential information had been leaked, and whether they had fallen victim to computer ‘hacking’.

He added, though, that the environmental group was seeking to move rapidly with the ‘discovery’ process to “get to the root” of the leak.

Returning to what he sees as the wider consequences of disclosing Save the Bays’ private e-mails, Mr Smith said: “This is sending a clear message to the world that if, as and when the Government feels it is expedient to defend either itself or its friends, they will cross the Rubicon and throw caution to the wind, and terrorise the private sector.

“This means that no private financial information or correspondence is sacred, or is to be regarded as protected under bank confidentiality laws and the Data Protection Act, which are supposed to provide protection in a country that is supposed to be governed by the rule of law.

“Given that one of the primary industries in the Bahamas is the financial services and banking industry, I would have thought observers would be recoiling at the prospect of the Government setting its sights on any bank, financial institution, insurance company or foreign investor coming to the Bahamas, expecting privacy in its business and financial affairs.”

Comments

Sickened 4 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Fitzgerald, can I please have your cell phone number so that I can call you to find out what my mortgage balance is? If I call my banks directly I have to first speak to someone in Trinidad or Jamaica for them to transfer me to a number here in Nassau which is ends up being an answering machine which tells me to leave a message. It will be much easier for me to call you directly. Perhaps the people at your constituency office have this information available for me? Or better yet, you could just read out my personal information each week in the house of assembly. I'm sure my friends and colleagues will let me know my balances if I am unable to tune in.

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 2 months ago

Never mind the out spoken QC he has done more damage to the Bahamas than any other person in the history of the Bahamas. He does not mean us well. He is hurt because he had been found out, He should stay on his knees in public. Fred is not God, Not the one most Bahamians serve

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themessenger 4 years, 2 months ago

Birdie, we know you ain worrying bout finances cause you probably ain gat no bank account, while all dem bigga PLP's like Fitzy & Freddy dem livin off the fat of the land you and the rest of their sheeple ain gat two coppers to rub together or a pot to piss in but still luvin it.

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 2 months ago

The out spoken QC is one great big liar. "Chief Crazy horse" Several of his clients leaving too good for him. they more than likely found out who they were dealing with,, Yes Pintard was working with his firm Yea doing what?

The outspoken QC deeds are now catching up with him and he can not handle it.,so he just has to lie and lie some more ,

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 2 months ago

"Liar"?, Fred Smith likes to sue

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GrassRoot 4 years, 2 months ago

birdie, this has nothing to do with Smith, and I don't know whether you sell newspapers on the side of the streets or are the CEO of the most profitable business in the Bahamas for a living. I for myself have been running around over the past 15 years in the world as a lawyer active in the financial and trust services market to tell everybody how save and secure the Bahamas as an IFC and how professional the work force was. And now a joker of a Minister shows the world that whatever the Bahamian government has told these investors, settlors, clients all these years, how secure and trustworthy the Bahamas as a jurisdiction with strong laws etc was, is just a big fat lie and that whoever wanted in any Government of the Bahamas could go to the press to spill the beans about your account and emails and clean or dirty laundry is just appalling. Short term gain (well not even) causing a heavy long term damage. Stupid, stupid people. We deserve going back to fishing. Pirating and Thieving we still are. Q.E.D.

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Disgruntled1 4 years, 2 months ago

I concur GrassRoots. This is absurdity!

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 2 months ago

The out spoken QC knows full well that his Delivery Boy killed the industry several years ago.The Delivery boy who made him QC and the God Lord knows no one could possibly be less deserving of the QC title.

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 2 months ago

You forgot pot to piss in or window to throw it out. But you will never ever know.

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themessenger 4 years, 2 months ago

Sorry Birdie I forgot, most of y'all don't have a pot fa true jus a hole in the back yard and guvment pump, jus ask any of Perry's constituents but dey luvin it still.

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Yallserious 4 years, 2 months ago

Can we actually have some intelligent discourse, please?

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Economist 4 years, 2 months ago

Birdie, IF those in power, that is the government, had abided by the law the QC, of which you speak, would not have been able to file any cases...sooooooo....the ones who have damaged The Bahamas are none other than the lawbreakers/government themselves, and NOT the QC.

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 2 months ago

When the Exuma Sea Park was dredged he looked the other way. he said he had a retiner fee. and he said it on TV.

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Sickened 4 years, 2 months ago

Again, he was following the law. Why can't your tiny brain comprehend? Don't tell me you failed out of Government school with an 'E' Average. My lord, you just need to show up to get a 'D' - and you couldn't even do that?!?! Lazy and friggin' dumb.

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GrassRoot 4 years, 2 months ago

and under international standards, Mitchell needs to be tried for human right violations and same for the AG. Its obvious that they either intentionally or negligently did not charge the two Cubans with a crime and let them rot in a jail in the Bahamas depriving them of due course, Same for the Japanese dude and the Jamaican dude. I dare to say that they would have a hard time walking out of the any international or national court of any halfway decent jurisdiction without at least getting heavily embarrassed by any halfway human judge and/or jury.

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MonkeeDoo 4 years, 2 months ago

I don't know how birdiestrachan can understand most of what is written in these comments. This is either the most stupid ignorant person in the Bahamas or Christie and Davis juicing her real good. Anyone see the latest affidavit from DiPaolo ? And a whole weekend to go with no news. And the Tribune has already shut down any commenting. We need an insurrection in this country.

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ThisIsOurs 4 years, 2 months ago

Why hasn't the data commissioner even so much as cautioned anyone about release of private data? Immunity in parliament means nothing, someone had to take the emails from a server or some other private source, ILLEGAL, before it touched the doors of the HOA

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GrassRoot 4 years, 2 months ago

illegal or not, it was just a plain dumb move to bring up that information. Did not achieve anything other than collateral damage to the IFC's reputation, as the content of the breached information got swept away by the subsequent wave of denials by all the named and wanting-to-be-named stakeholders of this mess.

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GrassRoot 4 years, 2 months ago

Speaking of which, where is BSFB in all of this? Must be frustrating to promote the Bahamas as an IFC, educate the world about the greatness of our financial products and services and getting backstabbed the Minister of Education of that very IFC.

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 2 months ago

Come on the news papers are always coming out with information obtained. remember they had all of Ms: Pindling business and all of Mr: Lightbourne"s business. you were all right with that. those fellows have three different stories. Good for you all Yes indeed I am a "E: student and I do sell newspapers on the side of the street. not to mention my out door toilet. That should make you all very happy.

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asiseeit 4 years, 2 months ago

No matter who you support the release of PRIVATE and confidential information by Fitzgerald is hurting this country more than helping the corrupt government of The Bahamas. This story has been shared by many foreign publications and has raised alarm bells around the world. Our Financial sector is already under siege as evidence of the loss of 1 in 4 jobs in that sector over the last couple years. Get ready for more pain and suffering that can be directly attributed to the government destroying our credibility when it comes to PRIVACY and CONFIDENTIALITY! Birdie, it is clear you have no clue, but your PLP has done damage that will hang over our heads for years if not decades, all to save their crooked hides, BRAVO!

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birdiestrachan 4 years, 2 months ago

Sam Duncombe and the out spoken QC are one and the same. They can not stand that person from over the hill have now moved to the top of the hill.. Sam Duncombe is another one who had nothing to say when the Exuma Sea Park was dredged. It is all political . Their delivery Boy Destroyed the industry many years ago. They want the FNM in power so that they can run things. Perhaps it will be reviled how much did Sam receive? Oh maybe she worked for the law firm also. so funny. STB is all about politics . The "E: student knows. Those men from Bains town duped them. big time three different reports and more to come.

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asiseeit 4 years, 2 months ago

The fact that "somebody from over the hill has moved to the top of the hill". is old news.

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MonkeeDoo 4 years, 2 months ago

Over the Hill ?. She is from Long Bay Cays in South Andros. Much your arse knows. And her husband was from St. Catherine in Jamaica, No he ain't Bahamian less its paper. His navel string is in Jamaica.

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MonkeeDoo 4 years, 2 months ago

This is actually disastrous for Financial Services in this Country. But these Nigga's already se the train leaving the station for them. This for them is what Joe Leder was for Pindling. I dont include Hanna because he was not a crook in my view.

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