By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Government is confident The Bahamas will "fare well" in the latest assessment of its anti-financial crime defences following corrective action by the Minnis administration.
K Peter Turnquest, pictured, the deputy prime minister, yesterday said the Government had made "tremendous progress" in strengthening The Bahamas' anti-money laundering (AML) and counter terrorism financing (CTF) regime.
Speaking with Tribune Business at an anti-money laundering conference spearheaded by the Central Bank, Mr Turnquest said: "We have made tremendous progress in respect to the legislative and policy requirements put before us in terms of the identified areas of risk.
"We just had an evaluation by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), and we are comfortable that we will fare well as a result of that. We are committed to making the changes that need to be made to remain compliant and have us looked upon as a well-regulated jurisdiction."
The CFATF's July 2017 Mutual Evaluation Report (MER), an assessment of this nation's defences against financial crime, had identified numerous legal and practical deficiencies in the regime. In particular, The Bahamas' was found to have "low" effectiveness in six out of 11 anti-money laundering/counter terrorism financing categories, prompting the Government to enact several pieces of legislation to address these concerns ahead of another review this year.
Addressing yesterday's conference, Mr Turnquest said the Government's desire and expectation is to maintain The Bahamas' status as a premier international financial centre (IFC) while setting "a gold standard" in anti-money laundering standards and combating the financing of terrorism.
"To remain competitive we simply must have a safe financial system that is resistant across the board - and within each relevant institution - to any facilitation of financial crime such as money laundering and terrorist financing," said Mr Turnquest.
"Just in the past year we achieved major legislative reforms to strengthen the Bahamian position to combat money laundering and the threat of terrorism financing. And our legislative docket for the rest of the year is packed with additional financial sector legislation, including those that will continue to enhance our management of AML/CFT related risks."
Mr Turnquest added: "The most recent legislative session concluded with the passage of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2018; the Financial Transactions Reporting Act 2018; the Anti-Terrorism Act 2018; and the Travellers Currency Declaration Amendment Act 2018.
"Also, the Financial Transactions Reporting Amendment Regulations and the Financial Transactions Wire Transfer Regulations passed both halls of Parliament. This list of legislation seeks to place the country in compliance with the FATF 40 recommendations. Another notable development was the Government's passage of the Multinational Entities Financial Reporting Act 2018 to address issues emanating from the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting 'BEPS', initiative which the Government committed to addressing in December 2017."
Mr Turnquest said the Government is also finalising the Register of Beneficial Ownership Bill 2018, which seeks to address another recommendation by the FATF, the global anti-money laundering standard setter.
"This relates to transparency of ownership of all entities registered and incorporated in The Bahamas. The Government intends to move on this legislation in the upcoming legislative session, along with legislation to enhance the reporting and regulation of non-profits, and to address ring fencing," he added.
"It is clear that our extensive legislative and regulatory reforms alone are insufficient to ensure that the Bahamas effectively manages AML/CFT risks. It is also necessary that the responsible regulatory agencies and the criminal justice system discharge their roles in a proactive and professional manner.
"This Government strongly supports our regulators as they focus more of their supervisory attention on financial crime risks, and we support our police and courts as they devote more of their attention to money laundering and related offences."