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Sebas: Web Shops 'Least Likely' To Pose Financial Crime Risk

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Island Luck's principal yesterday said web shops were the "least likely" sector to pose money laundering risks, as he slammed claims its legalisation had endangered the wider financial services industry.

Sebas Bastian hit back at financial services executive, Paul Moss, arguing that his comments challenged the integrity of not just web shop operators but the sector's Gaming Board regulator.

Mr Moss had charged that the "overnight" legalisation of a previously illegal sector had created "a recipe for disaster" if global regulatory bodies, such as the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), were to scrutinise the situation.

But Mr Bastian, in a statement to Tribune Business, said the Government wanted to legalise, regulate and tax the web shop industry to address these very same concerns, ensuring the multi-million dollar sums it generated were brought into the formal economy.

He added that all licensed web shops applied strict Know Your Customer (KYC) and due diligence standards, given that they were being held to global best practices and closely supervised.

"The gaming industry operates under the tightest magnifying glass in this country," said Mr Bastian. "No industry undergoes greater scrutiny. We are regulated by, and visited by, the Gaming Board on a daily basis, just as the casinos at Atlantis and Baha Mar are.

"One of the most respected accounting firms in the region is the firm of record to review all of our transactions. We bank with a bank that is supervised by the Central Bank of the Bahamas, and is compliant with international risk compliance standards."

Responding to Mr Moss directly, the Island Luck chief added: "So, by saying that we in the gaming industry could bring down the financial services in the Bahamas, are you saying that you do not trust those who serve on the Gaming Board? Are you saying you don't trust the accountants or the bank or the Government?"

Mr Moss, president of Dominion Management Services, had argued that web shops were also operating as unlicensed banks and money transmission providers in Family Island communities where there is no commercial bank presence.

And he suggested that the way in which the sector was legalised had exposed "a glaring deficiency in our system" that could attract attention from international regulatory bodies.

Mr Bastian, though, countered that the web shop industry was the segment least likely to produce anti-money laundering/terrorism financing risks from a financial services perspective.

"There is absolutely no justification to tarnish respected professionals and institutions," he said. "Government wanted the industry regularised so that there would be security surrounding it, and we would be held to the standards that are acceptable in a world in which there is greater and greater concern with the source of funds.

""The reason reporting standards have gotten tighter is to guard against funds that could be linked to terrorist financing or other activities that could wreak havoc on a global scale. Our source of funds is so evident - a local population, with each and every person having to show proof of residence or citizenship. So, in fact, we are the least likely to be on a 'watch list' or raise concern from those whose prying eyes are trying to keep the world safe."

Dionisio D'Aguilar, the Cabinet minister responsible for gaming, recently acknowledged that numerous issues surrounding the web shop industry remained to be addressed, including the 10-year moratorium on new entrants, which he deemed anti-competitive; the proliferation of locations throughout the Bahamas; and implementation of its zoning regulations.

However, neither the current government, nor the Christie administration, ever appeared to address the fate of web shop operators' pre-legalisation profits, which were used to invest in legitimate sectors of the Bahamian economy, make mortgage loans and enter into a wide range of investment activities.

The web shop sector barely rated a mention in the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force's (CFATF) recent assessment of the Bahamas' anti-money laundering and counter terror financing regimes; possibly because the examiners were only looking at the period when it had just been legalised.

The industry's legalisation, as Mr Bastian explained, was driven in part because it represented a money laundering 'high risk' if it remained illegal, with millions of dollars being transacted outside the formal banking system and economy. Web shop operators are already generally recognised as having strict Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures in place.

Comments

Sickened 2 months, 1 week ago

Sebas, with no due respect, the VAST majority of your money, it is said, came from crime. You should have been put in jail and had all of your money confiscated under the proceeds of crime act. So... sit small and thank the PLP's for your lavish lifestyle. But remember, God will punish you at some point and all of that money you take from the poor and desperate won't be any comfort to you AT ALL!

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banker 2 months, 1 week ago

Concur. Web shop owners are criminals and a scourge on society. They bought the PLP when they lost the referendum. They operated in the criminal fashion until the PLP subhuman lackeys, traitors, rectums, non-patriots and criminals legitimised the webshops. They should all be jailed and dispossessed of their filthy lucre.

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John2 2 months, 1 week ago

So why dont we make things right by finding, passing and implementing the correct legislation to to make things work between the Banking system and the web shops industry. How does the two systems function in places like las Vegas and Macau and other gameing cities around the world with large web shop industries. We can bring in consultants from those places to advise the government on what needs to be done, weather is stiffer KYC rules, More use of technology, training of Bahamians in specialized areas, implementing the latest proceedures and policy in use around the world,..Bahamians just love gambling too much,...something for nothing.... so the local Web Shops are not going anywhere. Even the gran ma's are now sitting in their bed rooms spinning all day. . We can satisfy the IMF ..CFATF and all other international agencies if we get the right experts in here and fix the issues and set up a marriage made in heaven between the web shops and the financial service industry. I am sure the web shop bosses wont mind footing the bill....The answers to these issues exist in some of the Gambling cities in asia and north america ... Both sectors are all about profit and i just think that one sector is now jealous because the other sector is making more profits much easier than the traditional banking way of doing things, so they are using their clout and influences in all these international agencies and organizations to try and maintain their profits by attacking the new web shop money guys on the block

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DDK 2 months, 1 week ago

John2, you are completely ignoring the huge negative effect these "web shops" have had, and have daily, on our economy and our people. There was a good reason The People voted NO to "web shops" in The Bahamas. The fact that the referendum results were totally ignored by Pillage Loot Plunder does not make this insidious scourge on our country good or right, something the current Government just cannot wrap its head around.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 1 week ago

Sebas can easily put this Cabinet speculation to rest ........ He and the other Numbers Cartel bosses just have to make public the MPs that they bankrolled and the amounts that each MP received ..... then we all can know why Minnis and Carl are quiet ....... and why Sebas et. al. are so bullish and brassy.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

This criminal minded two-bit thug Sebas Bastian would have us believe his money laundering and other corrupt racketeering activities should be considered squeaky clean because he has successfully "paid-off" our political parties, our politicians, our regulators and anyone else willing to participate in his ill-gotten financial gains. Bastian's small bent mind has only ever cast itself to those who he can and has all too easily "paid-off". He is incapable of appreciating that the global financial community and the regulators of every developed country see him and his businesses for what they truly are - criminal enterprises! And he certainly could not care less about the economic turmoil caused by his criminal activities nor the toll those activities have taken on so many addicted gamblers in our society. This contemptible thug is of the view he can sprinkle some of his wealth around by way of "political contributions" to the right politicians and political parties (often playing all sides), by way of outright "gifts" to the 'right' regulators and other influential people, and by way of offering jobs to their family members in his criminal businesses. But what this small minded scummy sleaze-ball of an idiot will never understand or care to appreciate is that his criminal empire is on the verge of totally destroying our legitimate banking and financial services sector, with the very real possibility that our entire country may soon be cut off from the global financial system with no ability for our government, our legitimate banks and private sector businesses or Bahamians to conduct transactions/money transfers in hard currencies with the rest of the world. Sebas Bastian and all facets of his criminal empire must be put out of business forever, and the sooner the better! The clock for this to be done is now winding down all too fast.

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Porcupine 2 months, 1 week ago

100% Agreed. Put out of business forever.

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

Comrades! Some of us believe there's much work left to do to tame the numbers industry. Too often, one does not see the forest for the trees.

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ThisIsOurs 2 months, 1 week ago

"#Sebas Bastian hit back at financial services executive, Paul Moss, arguing that his comments challenged the integrity of not just web shop operators but the sector's Gaming Board regulator."

Wow, that's the most insightful thing I believe I've heard him say...where was the gaming board and it's integrity?

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 1 week ago

Yep ....... that is the most important issue here ....... Did D'Aguilar satisfy anyone with his HOA contribution today????????

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Reality_Check 2 months, 1 week ago

Not me! The yapping white-haired little poodle simply told KP Turnquest that he should be imposing much more significant annual taxes and fees on the very impressive annual profits of the web shops. This is tantamount to saying that our government should be quite content to effectively participate as a significant profit-sharing partner in the corrupt money laundering and other racketeering activities of the numbers' bosses. Such an absurd stance by the Minnis-led FNM government will surely anger regulators of the global financial system. It is abundantly clear now that Minnis and his cabinet ministers have been "bought" by Sebas Bastian!

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banker 2 months, 1 week ago

I am convinced that Bahamians are totally incapable of ruling themselves. The minute that one gets elected, they put on a fur coat of ego, greed, kleptomania and lies. The easiest way to make a Bahamian say that black is white and white is black, is to pay him a few measly dollars. Just like a dog, hold a steak in front of a Bahamian politician, and he will beat his mother to get it. There is no hope.

The problems of the Bahamas run down right into the minds of the people. Web shop people are biggetty and they are ruining the country. Minnis said this is the people's time, but we didn't know that he meant the Dominican's people time. Why are not more criminal PLP's making the Bank Lane shuffle? Why do they not cancel the sweetheart contracks? Why do they not cut the civil service? Why do they need to call outside experts for a financial management system? Why do they keep the PLP n*ggerabilia around?

The Central Bank says the outlook for tourism is fooked and yet the government is behaving as if it just has a minor cold instead of terminal cancer. There is a minister for Grand Bahama, and he is doing sweet d*ck all.

There is no plan. They are not as criminal as the PLP, but almost just as clueless. Where are the patriots? Instead of forward, upwards and onwards, we are backwards, downwards and rearwards. For fook's sake, isn't there one leader who cares and has the testicular fortitude for immediate positive action? Apparently not. Without vision the people share perish and there een no vision here.

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Sickened 2 months, 1 week ago

Why do these politicians yap so f'in much in parliament? All they do is tell f'in stories. WHERE IS THE LEGISLATION FOR FUCK'S SAKE???? Get on with it or get the fuck out!!!

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proudloudandfnm 2 months, 1 week ago

This dude's geed is a disease. He needs shrink...

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