By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A MAJOR web shop yesterday said all customer accounts being used for money transmission will be closed following regulatory concerns expressed by the Gaming Minister.
Dirk Simmons, Island Luck’s chief financial officer, said the web shop had acted on its own initiative. “We do not offer a money transfer service; we never intended to offer a money transfer service, and we do not intend to offer the service. This is something that happened organically due to the robustness of our systems,” said Mr Simmons.
His comments come just weeks after Dionisio D’Aguilar, who has ministerial responsibility for gaming, suggested that the Bahamas could again be ‘blacklisted’ through web shops acting as unregulated money transfer businesses.
Mr D’Aguilar also questioned the web shop industry’s Know Your Customer (KYC) scrutiny, suggesting that while they verified client identities and addresses, they did not assess their source of income. Mr Simmons reiterated: “This was purely a proactive decision to align our business offerings with the highest interpretation of the laws that govern our license. Over the past several years we were shutting down accounts actively every month.
“We are now taking a more proactive approach every month. We have now applied systems changes to accomplish the desired effect of having our systems used only for gaming purposes. Going forward, persons will be required to use their Island Luck cards to both deposit and withdraw funds.”
Mr Simmons acknowledged that Island Luck’s move may cause hardship for Family Island-based businesses and residents, who have begun to increasingly use web shops to conduct their regular financial services transactions as commercial banks exited their islands.
“We fully appreciate that this decision may impact Bahamians on our remote Family Islands who do not have access to any commercial banking services, and may rely on our systems to facilitate basic day-to-day commerce to meet their needs,” Mr Simmons said.
“However, we are making this proactive decision to align ourselves with the highest interpretation of the regulatory laws and requirements that govern our license.”
Mr Simmons added: “We at all times stand ready to assist the Government in any way we can, and we remain open and active in dialogue with the regulatory bodies to find solutions that may be impacted by those decisions.”
While Mr Simmons did not disclose what those solutions might be, Tribune Business has previously reported that the Central Bank earlier this year introduced the Payment Instruments (Oversight) Regulations 2017, which are designed as the supervisory framework for electronic payments solutions and providers.
Island Luck’s chief executive, Sebas Bastian, had previously expressed interest in obtaining a license under this regime.