Don’T Panic - Eu’S Ban Won’T Last Long

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest. 
Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff


Tribune Business Editor


The Government was last night “optimistic” The Bahamas’ blacklisting will be “quickly reversed”, suggesting the European Union (EU) had ignored top-level pledges to meet its demands.

KP Turnquest, the Deputy Prime Minister, urged Bahamians - and especially the financial services industry - not to panic as removing this nation from Europe’s listing was “number one priority for me right now”.

Mr Turnquest, who is heading a Government delegation that will meet EU officials today, told Tribune Business that letters he had personally signed committing The Bahamas to compliance with its anti-tax avoidance drive were “obviously not taken into account” in the ‘blacklisting’ decision.

The 28-nation EU, unveiling its rationale for “blacklisting” The Bahamas and two other Caribbean nations as ‘non-cooperative jurisdictions’, said this action was taken “because they have failed to make commitments at a high political level in response to all of the EU’s concerns”.

Mr Turnquest last night revealed that this statement likely stemmed from the fact that the Bahamas’ initial compliance commitment was signed by Marlon Johnson, the Ministry of Finance’s acting financial secretary, rather than himself or a Cabinet-level minister.

He added that when the EU expressed this concern to the Government on March 2, he immediately responded by sending them the same letter signed by himself. Had the EU recognised this, Mr Turnquest said, its statement and ‘blacklisting’ rationale “could not hold up”.

The Deputy Prime Minister argued that “timing and miscommunication” were largely responsible for the Bahamas’ ‘blacklisting’, but the EU had warned the Government - almost two weeks before the letter signed by Mr Johnson was dispatched - that it wanted “a firm commitment at high political level” that its concerns would be addressed (see other article on Page 1B)

Besides the absence of a “high level political commitment”, the EU also justified its treatment of the Bahamas by arguing this nation had not done enough to prevent its corporate vehicles and structures from being used by clients - especially multinational corporations - for tax avoidance purposes.

“The Bahamas is added with the following text: ‘Bahamas facilitates offshore structures and arrangements aimed at attracting profits without real economic substance, and did not commit to addressing these issues by December 31, 2018’,” the EU said of its ‘blacklisting’ rationale.

Financial services industry sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, yesterday said the Bahamas’ inclusion on the nine-strong ‘blacklist’ had provoked widespread dismay and concern throughout the sector.

Besides the potential damage to the Bahamas’ reputation, the sector fears the EU’s action may cause existing clients and their assets to depart as they will not wish to be domiciled in a ‘blacklisted’ jurisdiction. And such a status could also deter new business from coming.

“This was not well received,” one highly-placed financial services executive revealed. “Persons are concerned. They are concerned about loss of business, and if we come off the blacklist the damage may have been done, as no one will want to do business in a ‘blacklisted’ jurisdiction.”

The EU’s 28 member states have yet to agree a co-ordinated package of sanctions/penalties against ‘blacklisted’ jurisdictions, but Bahamian companies - and individuals - doing business with Europe may see their transactions subjected to greater scrutiny and vetting as a result.

This, in turn, would slow the pace of commerce, while there could also be negative fall-out for the correspondent banking and custodial relationships enjoyed by Bahamian financial institutions.

If the ‘blacklisting’ results in foreign financial institutions viewing the Bahamas as ‘high risk’, it could lead to the loss and/or severing of such ties, which the Bahamian financial services industry - and wider economy - rely upon for cross-border commerce and capital flows.

Given the Bahamas’ status as an international business centre and services exporter, maintaining such links are vital to the sustainability of its economic model. But inclusion on the EU’s ‘blacklist’ could make it more vulnerable to global ‘de-risking’ trends that have already seen financial institutions, especially standalone entities that are locally owned, lose correspondent relationships with foreign banks.

While the international payments fall-out will likely be contained, given that the majority of overseas transactions originating in the Bahamas ‘clear and settle’ through the US, “on the flip side” the majority of its clients - and many Bahamas-based bank and trust companies - originate from Europe.

James Smith, a former minister of finance and ex-Central Bank governor, also pointed out that there could be negative consequences for securities custodians, given that the processing of such trades was frequently carried out through the Euroclear system.

Mr Turnquest, though, told Tribune Business he did not want “to get too far down that track” in terms of the ‘blacklisting’s’ negative effects, given that the Minnis administration remained hopeful the EU might alter its decision when the Bahamas presents its full case.

“We’re hopeful and optimistic we will get this reversed in short order,” the Deputy Prime Minister said, acknowledging that an adverse listing could cause “reputational damage, and we have done everything we can to avoid that”.

Moving to reassure the Bahamian public and financial services industry, Mr Turnquest added: “Right now, it’s number one priority for me. They can be sure it’s a priority issue for the Government, and we are committed to doing everything we can to get us off the list as quickly as possible and protect the reputation of the Bahamas.”

He suggested that miscommunication, and related misunderstandings, had contributed to the Bahamas’ ‘blacklisting’, not least that its ‘commitment letter’ was signed by a senior civil servant as opposed to a Cabinet minister.

“We’ve already submitted quite a bit of the information they required,” Mr Turnquest told Tribune Business. “If you look at the statement they [the EU] made, their primary statement was that we didn’t make a commitment at the highest political level.

“The February 8 letter to them was signed by the Financial Secretary. They wrote us back on March 2, saying they didn’t see a commitment from the highest political level. I sent them the same letter and signed it as Deputy Prime Minister.

“They did not respond to us until they day of the Reuters article. We actually got back to them. We called them, spoke to them, followed up with formal letters and submitted draft legislation. We then came over to have the conversation with them here.”

Mr Turnquest, together with Brent Symonette, minister of financial services, will today meet with officials from the EU ‘Contact Group’, which has primary responsibility for the ‘blacklisting’, to argue the Bahamas’ case for removal.

“It’s obvious that they did not take into account our submissions after the initial ones signed by the Financial Secretary, otherwise the initial statement they [the EU] made could not hold up,” he told Tribune Business.

“It’s a matter of them taking these submissions we’ve made, reevaluating them and, hopefully, we can have this situation resolved... We’re very committed. It was recommitted by myself two times, verbally on the phone, and in a series of e-mails back and forth with various people. It’s obviously more a timing issue and miscommunication which is why we’re on it.”

Mr Turnquest said there was also “a bit of inconsistency” in the EU’s approach to the Bahamas, given that it accepted this nation’s compliance with its automatic tax information exchange demands. The only issue outstanding, and highlighted by Europe yesterday, related to the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative.

The BEPS initiative, which is being driven by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), aims to ensure that the profits of multinational companies are taxed in the country where they are generated.

Multinational companies often use legitimate tax avoidance strategies to “exploit gaps and mismatches” between different countries’ tax rates and rules, and “artificially shift profits” to low or ‘no tax’ jurisdictions despite conducting no or minimal business there. This enables them to minimise their tax exposure by paying a lower rate than they otherwise would in countries where they do conduct business.

It is these activities that the EU is also determined to crack down on, and compliance with anti-BEPS measures is one of the three ‘criteria’ it is using when judging whether to ‘blacklist’ countries.

Mr Turnquest, meanwhile, said the Bahamas had to address “several bits of legislation” to comply with the EU’s demands. He declined to detail what changes/new laws were required, other than to confirm they were being drafted and would be ready shortly.

“There are several pieces of legislation that need to be harmonised to address the standard, which we’re working on,” he told Tribune Business.

Carl Bethel QC, the Attorney General, also declined to give specifics other than to confirm the Government was working to remove the Bahamas from the EU’s ‘blacklist’ “forthwith”, with Mr Turnquest and the Ministry of Finance leading the effort.

“We’re moving very quickly in close consultation with the Ministry of Finance, and have every intention of moving expeditiously as guided by them,” he said of the legal reforms.


John 3 days, 14 hours ago

Only the government seems to have panicked on this matter. The Bahamas needs to take the route of other countries and tell the EU which part of the world to kiss. And don’t forget Britain, who were our original colonial masters, is making its exit from this gangster led and scandal ridden union. The Bahamas and other similar countries will never meet their requirements because it is not their intention to make us a part of the union. In fact the intention is the opposite where then intend to keep moving the bar or use unreasonable requirements to exclude us. The USA now controls 25% of the offshore market since they came in and crushed our offshore banking system over a decade ago and stole our customers.


Aegeaon 3 days, 8 hours ago

Your "Offshore customers" are a bunch of loser, tax-dodging idiots that flock here because we punked out, supported the Mexican Drug Cartels, and allowed the PLP and some of the FNM to use Number Houses to launder money around before and after it was created and legalized. Bunch of BS, we deserved this blacklist, and I just hope that people wake up and smell the garbage that we (Bahamians) created for ourselves.


tetelestai 2 days, 8 hours ago

Your ignorance is only matched by the stupidity of your comment. I would really like to comment further, but, I should let others opine on the scatological lunacy of your comment.


Honolulu 5 hours, 48 minutes ago

@tetelestai, your comment is profoundly ignorant. What part of @Aegeaon's comment is NOT factual? He or she is on point! As an American, we have many tax dodgers, 'I'm one of them'. Before you castigate, and not flaunt your reckless stupidity, 'get your ducks in a row'. That person's comment you attempted to ridicule is far more intelligent than yours. That country, Bahamas, is in the epidemic state of crisis!


Honolulu 6 hours, 7 minutes ago

It is true! However, I'm not convinced that the 28 EU sect is not the permissible cartel?


Sickened 3 days, 14 hours ago

The Government was last night “optimistic” The Bahamas’ blacklisting will be “quickly reversed” And he's optimistic because??? It's not like Turnquest even got to speak with anyone about anything while he was in the building - YOU WERE IGNORED.

This Blacklisting will stay in place until the EU decide to remove us - NOT once we sign shit into legislation!


joeblow 3 days, 14 hours ago

The EU blacklisting is just another form of neo-colonialism designed to place never ending financial constraints on national development while using human rights and tax arguments to spread their globalist ideology. They are using financial pressure to create conformity to their view of what the world should look like and yes they believe it should look like them!


Honolulu 6 hours, 3 minutes ago

Well-conveyed... well-written comment. Kudos. We live in a 'white-world'. It's their way or the highway. Operating in the antithesis undermines your Agenda. Find creative...out-of-the-box ways to skin the cat without pouring 'hotbutter' up its asscrack. RealTalk!


Islandboy242242 3 days, 13 hours ago

The EU is probably worried about losing credibility if they quickly reverse our blacklisting, so it might be at least another quarter until they change anything. Like it was said, the damage may already have been done. Another unfortunate negative tickbox for our Island Nation.


OldFort2012 3 days, 13 hours ago

As usual, people here just do not get it.

Why has the EU blacklisted the Bahamas? Because of Brexit. The UK is leaving and now the main user of the Bahamas as a tax shelter (the UK) is no longer in the EU. The remaining EU nations have tax shelters of their own: Luxembourg, Malta, Cyprus. They naturally want the business to go to them and to keep the money in-house, so to say. Which is normal.

Therefore, whatever we do, obstacles from the EU will keep on appearing.

Our best interest is obvious: do whatever gets us the most business from the rest of the world. Forget the EU. Their aim is to keep their business in-house. Nothing we do will ever satisfy them as it is not satisfaction they seek. It is obstructionism they want.


observer2 3 days, 13 hours ago

The EU can tax our exports, slow down access to the global financial system by our offshore financial industry, put up barriers to the movement of people (both ways including tourism), products and services.

The Bahamas needs much more action and stop the chatter.


OldFort2012 3 days, 12 hours ago


The EU can tax our exports: what, lobsters? slow down access to the global financial system by our offshore financial industry: they have done it already through the blacklisting. They can't do it twice. put up barriers to the movement of people (both ways including tourism): how exactly? It is up to us who we let in, not them who they let out. And if they put up Visa requirements for Bahamians...so what? It's not like we all go to the EU every fortnight. In fact I would wager that 95% of Bahamians have never, nor ever will, go there.


DWW 3 days, 2 hours ago

i highly doubt the EU is going to restrict tourism to the bahamas.


DDK 3 days, 12 hours ago

Hopefully Britain will get out of the EU intact. They are giving her a run for her money. As you may be right in your reasoning, because it does make sense, perhaps we should just respectfully ignore the EU and, as you and others have suggested, take our profits where we can! Being rogue to the big boys will have its attractions to the very corporations that will keep trying to outwit them.


JohnDoe 2 days, 17 hours ago

Finally a sensible analysis of the root cause situation. What is somewhat disappointing is the FNM response/approach that the EU/OECD strategy was unknown or unknowable because this has only been going on for almost 20 years. The bottom line is that the tax rate in these EU countries cannot be raised much higher without placing a drag on their GDP and job creation so their only viable strategy is to expand their tax base and optimize tax collection from EU citizens and business activities. Expectations of fairness or a level playing field is naïve. This EU strategy will persists until we change our tax model with respect to offshore participants and activities. This was my primary concern about the Enterprise Bill touted for its international tax incentives for residents or citizens of the EU.


observer2 3 days, 13 hours ago

So KP's signature is enough to reverse the blacklisting? Sounds like wishful thinking to me.

I suspect the EU would looked at the Bahamas' actions rather than words in its decision to blacklist.

Certainly the action of touting the Commercial Enterprise Bill which allows corporations to set up shop (mind and management) in the Bahamas and avoid income tax regardless of where in the world their revenues are generated is extreamly harmful.

Oban is another example. In this case the government can structured a large transactions so that Oban will pay no income tax yet trade on a global basis including the EU. This is not how the Bahamas should be leveling the playing field.


John 3 days, 13 hours ago

The EU’s blacklisting does not have the effect they want it to have for several reasons. First off the growing number of Crypto currencies popping up all over the planet. And both the EU’s and the UK announcement in December that they plan to regulate and control the Bitcoin against money laundering and terrorism funding has caused that (Bitcoin) value to tumble. But it has caused other countries, like Venezuela, to announce plans to introduce their own Crypto currency (Petroleum coin) and since these will be outside the EU’s control and regulations they will pose a bigger headache and a greater weakening of the EU, that this corruption infested union will eventually welcome countries, like The Bahamas, with open arms. Then there’s also the US president, Donald Trump, who is both unscripted and uncontrolled. He is already creating headaches for the WTO by imposing tariffs on imports that the WTO has been struggling to have countries remove for years. And thus far their only response to Trump was ‘not to impose these tariffs on WTO members’ while they review the matter. Then there is the issue of ‘new wealth ‘ popping up in countries that have no respect for the EU and they have no interest in becoming a member. And since bad money chases good money persons who really want to hide their money or launder it will be attracted to those countries with high economic activity where it will be easier to blend in. Then China is doing a complete restructuring of its banking system to make its banking activities less visible to the international community. This is amid reporting that their economy is growing by 6-7% as the world renews its appetite for Chinese goods. When your grandma use to feed you and you didn’t eat, she didn’t go out and buy you Wendy’s of Bamboo. She simply said ‘don’t worry, when you get hungry you’ll eat.’


Socrates 3 days, 12 hours ago

hope for the best, but expect the worse... we need our people at the UN, who are living large in NY at our expense, to get in the huddle with the other despised States and see what we can do together, if only in a symbolic way, to push back. call it an act of aggression or something, but dont just sit on your ass and accept everything thats pushed in your direction.


John 3 days, 12 hours ago

  • Venezuela plans to introduce the PetroCoin not the Petroleum coin.

TalRussell 3 days, 12 hours ago

Comrades KP, the PM and Carl Wilshire wish they could do same - don't panic - the constituents ban against three reds will last on for the arrogant ways 2017 general election campaign pledges are not meeting even minimum allowable expectations constituents. Tis only matter time measured in 10 to 21 days before their own red MP's does lead House coup against them. Insider red source swears me of firsthand knowledge former Long Island MP has been retained on 'hefty auditors style fee' as coup's chief consultant. {There's no making this up that what we have is a failure communicate in plain, simple, understandable constituents language and da public}.


Well_mudda_take_sic 3 days, 11 hours ago

Meanwhile there are huge backlogs in just about every government department, agency and corporation because of a bloated civil service choked with obese, illiterate and non-productive hires, including temporary workers, who owe their public paying jobs to corrupt politicians. Each is given a menial task that they take their own sweet time doing while tripping over one another, causing very costly serious delays at just about every point in all of the dysfunctional systems that frustrate taxpaying businesses and individual taxpayers virtually to death. Our average government worker spends two hours a day planning their lunch, another hour and a half eating it, a couple of hours of chit chatter and listening to radio talk shows with fellow workers, and an hour or two doing special favours for their own friends and family members (including friends and family members of politicians) while everyone else waits ever so patiently unless they are prepared to 'grease the system'. A truly pathetic state of affairs that has our country well on its way to bankruptcy!


DDK 3 days, 10 hours ago

You don't mince words. Unfortunately for The Bahamas, they are right!


hrysippus 3 days, 6 hours ago

Brutal but unfortunately accurate except that you left out the afternoon school run.


Dawes 3 days, 11 hours ago

Government has a choice, to either do what is needed to get off the blacklist or not. No one is saying we must, all the EU is saying is if you don't we will actively encourage our people not to do business with you. Cry all you want about that being unfair, and how XYZ country in the EU can do it, but that won't change the blacklisting. This will just be another nail in the offshore financial services industry which was already having the coffin door closed, with more middle class and high class jobs being lost.


OldFort2012 3 days, 10 hours ago

It just is not so.

What effect does the blacklisting have? Only one: any banking transaction from the EU to the Bahamas will be subject to extra checks. That is all. Nothing else.

Now, all we need to do is pass a law that we absolutely will not reveal anything to any EU tax or law enforcement body, forge business partnerships with someone not on the blacklist (say, GC), channel funds through there via our nominee accounts and offer all EU citizens a 100% guarantee that this is the best place for them to evade taxes. They want to screw with us? Lets go full pirate.


Dawes 3 days, 9 hours ago

Ha, if it was so easy this would have been done a long time ago. Why don't you try this, i would put money on that nominee account of yours, not even being opened. Then what would you do.


OldFort2012 3 days, 9 hours ago

Been doing it for 30 years. Still going strong.


JohnDoe 2 days, 17 hours ago

It is not that simple. It is important to understand that Blacklisting, De-Risking and FATCA etc are different parts to the same G7 strategy. It is a multi-front isolation strategy on the offshore customers, market participants and regulatory/compliance requirements and costs designed to channel offshore activities to these jurisdictions. Blacklisting is designed to put maximum pressure on the international financial institutions which operate in the Blacklisted jurisdiction which would then place enhanced risk on customers doing business with those organizations. Therefore, financial institutions operating in a blacklisted country will attract to it more regulatory compliance costs and a heightened reputational and regulatory risk profile which would then cause their customers, who may be happy otherwise, to make some tough decisions about whether to accept this risk.

Our response must be much more comprehensive and we must look at whether the tax haven model is still a viable model given the current market conditions. Ultimately, we must get serious about creating structural underpinnings to diversify our economy and our ability to drive endogenous GDP growth and job creation.


DWW 3 days, 2 hours ago

I could be wrong but i thought 90% of the financial service industry is driven by south america. the EU, UK, US have all stopped using hte bahamas for financial services years ago. where have you all been tripping out on mars?


TigerB 3 days, 9 hours ago

We really love our country... blacking listing news is exciting news, investments of OBAN is a Travesty. Why do we get excited about the negativity of our country, may be many of us don't travel.. When you go away they don't see you as red or gold shirt, they only see Bahamian, so when the Bahamas looks bad internationally, you and I look bad. If the PLP was in and this happen they will only see Bahamians, just like when there was those down grades from Standard & Poor and Moody. It affected all shirts, all of us.


bogart 3 days, 9 hours ago

......failed to make commitments at a high political level??

See /google Tribune bob bailout doubts raised Monday,May 8, 2017 by Sancheska Dorsett and Neil Hartnell See /google Tribune Minnis calls on MP's to reveal BOB loans Wednesday, April 20, 2016 by Ava Turnquest

Obviously not getting advice from your Chief Advisors in the CENTRAL Bank....regulator? Inspector?... Suggest Bring back James Smith as Governor of the Central Bank or give D'Aguilar a shot cause he understands business an people an knows when to hold or fold an competition


John 3 days, 8 hours ago

If you equate the Blacklisting with the War on Drugs then you would better understand what you’re up against. It is target specific. If the ‘enforcers ‘ tapped certain people’s phone and overheard them even jokingly say in a conversation ‘ Boy if I had some drugs right now I could pay my bills.’ That person could be arrested and charged with intent or conspiracy to supply dangerous drugs and can spend the rest of his life or most of it in prison. This person may have never seen or touched drugs in their lives nor have any intention of doing so. And if you don’t think it is real, we still have police in this country willing to chase a car down the highy, shoot up and even kill its occupants and wreck a $100,000 police car in the process, only to recover a half joint. Only because they have been brainwashed and their superiors are so anxious to worship their invisible masters. When this issue of black listing came up under the Ingraham administration, the Ingraham Government, including Zhivago Laing, panicked and threw this country to the wolves. Hook, line and sink us!


paul_vincent_zecchino 3 days, 3 hours ago

Take a good look at the queerbait oddballs who run the dying EU. Take a good look.

Forget the EU, they're flailing about, lashing out at the Bahamas to protect their criminal buds on the continent.

The EU leadership has been reported to be up to its brown eyeballs in pedophile scandals, among other travesties.

The EU is a 90s contrivance, straight from the crooked, druggie Clinton era. Micromanaging the size and color of bananas seems its greatest achievement.

The UK kicked it to the curb, and now in manner of a cirrhotic wino lolling about the gutter, screaming at passing traffic, the EU punkomeisters throw spitballs at the Bahamas.

They're bust. They're lame. They're burnt.

It's a new era, one which does not belong to control freak Elite poofters.


concerned799 2 days, 22 hours ago

What guarantees would the Bahamas have it wouldn't just be given new demands in future even if it met all the current demands now? This is the illogic of complying with such demands, its essentially asking for your soverignty.


concerned799 2 days, 22 hours ago

Perhaps the EU should spell out what action it will take against those outside its bloc that don't adhere to its standards on privacy and the environment. Oh, but that would mean having to sanction the US and China....


John 2 days, 16 hours ago

IAnyone who takes mudda-was- sick (in her head) posts seriously must also be sick. Obviously the poster is a paid sour grape to post disparaging things about The Bahamas, most that exist only in his sick mind. But despite the rantings It is still better in The Bahamas. And obviously he is here because he doesn’t want to be no where else (or is not wanred anywhere else) but The Bahamas. Love it or Leave it!


Aegeaon 2 days, 9 hours ago

Love a country that deals with the drug cartels? Forget it.


John 2 days, 15 hours ago

In the maint time Britain has expelled 33 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter. Britain’s Secretary of State is convinced that it was Russia who poisoned the former spy. She claims it is Putin’s way of sending a message to his people around the world: ‘If you defect, you die!’


John 2 days, 15 hours ago

Some think this is just a deflection of the investigation of Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia and that country’s interference in the recent US Elections.


Honolulu 5 hours, 52 minutes ago

RUBBISH! 1stly, DonaldTrump was NOT found colluding. 2ndly, Trump has imposed sanctions on Russia stemming from Russia's attempts to collude. 3rdly Russia's attempts to collude was while Obama was running. Those including you that believe...think Trump colluded are speculating from where the sun doesn't shine. You people ... you folks in that country make your own problems. FIX them! Europe and your issues do NOT have ANYTHING to do with the United States of affairs. Wash your own filthy laundry! Frankly ...that country, Bahamas, MUST return to the Crown. It would diminish and solve the number of your reckless screw-ups and lethal criminal activities. You find you where you are because that country has ZERO litmus. You most definitively don't seem to have any when it comes to getting crime under control. Yes, the US too is riddled with crime; however, we are a country's population of 300+ million people ... what's yours? Maybe 391K? There is where your focus must be centered; fixing all of what that little dot of a country has as violent exposure.


Honolulu 6 hours, 6 minutes ago

Regardless of what side of this Article you stand. It is well-written by the Journalist! Props!


Sign in to comment