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Turnquest Fury Over France’S ‘Disgusting’ Sudden Blacklisting

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The deputy prime minister yesterday voiced his "total disgust" over France's decision to blacklist The Bahamas as he blasted the "devious" way in which it had been implemented.

Confirming that Paris had formally notified the Minnis administration of its decision yesterday morning, K Peter Turnquest slammed its "surreptitious" decision as "an affront" to international diplomatic norms and the relationship this nation had sought to build with France.

He added that The Bahamas' inclusion on France's list of countries deemed non-cooperative in the fight against tax-related crimes stemmed from "the perception by the French authorities" that this nation "has not been responding to requests for information in a manner that is satisfactory to them".

Mr Turnquest did not say whether it was the speed or content of responses to French requests on their citizens/companies via the Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) between the two countries that had troubled Paris, other than it felt "our response was not sufficient".

He added, though, that an inter-governmental investigation had not turned up any French tax information requests that remained outstanding or had not been dealt with, saying The Bahamas has "nothing on the record".

Mr Turnquest, though, voiced particular displeasure that The Bahamas had been deemed compliant last year with the various tax demands of the European Union (EU) and Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) - France being a member in both.

Admitting that achieving compliance with each body had made The Bahamas' financial services sector "uncompetitive in some respects", with the industry going through "significant pain", the deputy prime minister said France's decision to perform a unilateral u-turn and blacklist this nation called into question whether it had all been worthwhile.

Pointing out that the OECD's Global Forum is the acknowledged body for dealing with tax matters, Mr Turnquest questioned why his French counterpart did not inform him of the impending blacklisting when both attended the body's 10th anniversary celebrations last week.

He also criticised France's failure to invoke the dispute resolution process contained in the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters, which The Bahamas signed in late 2017 to facilitate tax information exchange and co-operation.

"I have expressed to the French ambassador our disappointment, our total disgust with the way in which this has been done," Mr Turnquest said, "the disrespectful manner in which The Bahamas has been treated in this particular regard.

"We intend to communicate that to the Global Forum, to the OECD and the EU. There is no point, Mr Speaker, in us engaging in these multilateral organisations if individual members are going to take unilateral action, particularly without dialogue, at the highest level. Yet they expect commitment from us at the highest political levels.”

The latter point refers to the EU's move to temporarily "blacklist" the Bahamas in early 2018 on the basis that this nation had not given a commitment at the Government's highest levels to address its concerns over economic substance and the elimination of preferential tax regimes for foreign investors.

Mr Turnquest added: "The same goes here. They [France] did not engage with us at the highest political level, or indeed at any level. So we will communicate our feelings in this regard formally. The Bahamas is a committed partner to tax transparency, the cooperation and the performance of our obligations with our international partners.”

Pointing out that this had come at a significant cost to this nation's financial services industry, Mr Turnquest said: "The Bahamas has gone through significant pain to pass a suite of legislation, to the chagrin of the financial services industry, that has made us uncompetitive in some respects.

"This [France's action] demonstrates a complete disregard for the damaging repercussions and significant long-term impact that these unilateral punitive measures have on allied countries like The Bahamas that are fully engaged at the highest levels of international cooperation.”

Slamming the "less than transparent manner" employed by the Emmanuel Macron-led government, Mr Turnquest added: "I advised the ambassador that such a surreptitious posture knowing that they intended to blacklist us is an affront to the amicable relationship that we have fostered with France.”

Philip Davis, the Opposition's leader, said he backed the "expression of outrage" at France's “arbitrary” move, adding that there always seemed a “moving of the goal post” when it came to international regulatory standards.

However, he cautioned the Government against being too “bullish” in its response to France, urging it to first understand “why it is we are being blacklisted”. Mr Davis said complaints about The Bahamas' response to overseas requests for assistance had been a long-standing issue, with concerns frequently raised about this nation's ability to enforce the laws it has passed.

"From 2000 the country has been under assault in respect of one of the arms that contributes to GDP, financial services," Mr Davis said. “From what I understand the reasons undergirding this [French blacklisting] is our failure to properly respond to requests. It's important that we identify why they acted in such an arbitrary, draconian and disrespectful manner.

"One of our challenges over the years, not just with France but many parties around the world, is the ability to respond to requests; multiple requests...... We should always try to remind ourselves that we can pass these laws, but enforcement is also a key element. Enforcement requires proper resourcing and the setting up of the various structures to be able respond.”

Mr Davis said he has been “lamenting for quite a while" that The Bahamas should be “shoring up” its tax information exchange agencies, and ensure they are staffed with competent people to deal with these matters. He called for the Government to develop an “action plan” to address these issues.

Mr Turnquest, in response, said: "We have told each and every regulator, and we told every ministry that has any connection to any tax matter, to determine whether they have received any request outside of those outstanding, or whether they have received any follow-up to any request that had already been responded to. The fact of the matter is we have none, as far as we are aware.

"We are in the process now of determining what could possibly be the issue, as we have no requests outstanding, none as far as we are concerned.”

Comments

RB242F 1 month, 3 weeks ago

The legacy that the Bahamas was a Tax Haven is so anchored in the mind of people in Europe that no matter what the Bahamas do, it will never be enough. EU Citizen would take their politics as a fool if they start to brag about the Bahamas no longer being a Tax Haven after all these years of bullying them.

I'm French and I'm a permanent resident of The Bahamas since 10 years, and seriously every time I say I live in The Bahamas when I'm Europe the eye of the people starts to shine and they start to fantasy about a suitcase of money passing border like in an old James Bond movie of the 70'

From there I try hard to do my part and explain that with FACTA and CRS the Bahamas is no longer a Tax Haven, and bored them to death with the reality... The USA is probably the only tax even today since they don't sign the EU Common Report Standard (CRS) while every other signed their FACTA Agreement, but it's less "exotic" and "sexy" for EU citizens to picture this reality.

Seriously the only way for the Bahamas to change this bias is maybe to invest massively in a terrible Television PR Campaign showing the hundreds of JOB lost in the financial industry the past 10 years, showing Societe General (French Bank) leaving the country after more than 20 years, and explain the fact that all the money flies to another tax haven long ago leaving your banking industry as it is today.

But still, nobody will cry for The Bahamas... Good luck with this reality.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 3 weeks ago

More money laundering and tax evasion takes place each year in France than has taken place in the Bahamas in the entire history of the Bahamas.

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joeblow 1 month, 3 weeks ago

France and the EU countries are using the threat of financial blacklisting to advance their own economic interests at the expense of smaller countries. At some point the Bahamas should consider ignoring these threats, go rogue and open up our markets to attract their high income tax earners again, while creating our own rules of financial transparency (whatever that means).

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banker 1 month, 3 weeks ago

France has draconian tax laws based on the Napoleonic code. Tax evasion is a national sport in France, and they are clamping down. BNP Paribas, the big French bank was the thin edge of the wedge in the decline of The Bahamas Financial Services. They have been known to play footsie with money laundering and other regulations. They saw the writing on the wall, and sold their Bahamas book of business in 2009-2010 timeframe. The entity that bought it, had to purge over 100,000 accounts that were in violation of the FATF, FATCA, OECD, the John Doe subpoena, and tax authorities around the world (notably Canada where there was a large preponderance of French Canadian accounts). Recently France passed new laws to tax the wealthy and there was a flight of capital. This action is to stem that and get needed tax dollars into their struggling economy.

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RB242F 1 month, 3 weeks ago

The legacy that the Bahamas was a Tax Haven is so anchored in the mind of people in Europe that no matter what the Bahamas do, it will never be enough. EU Citizen would take their politics as a fool if they start to brag about the Bahamas no longer being a Tax Haven after all these years of bullying them.

I'm French and I'm a permanent resident of The Bahamas since 10 years, and seriously every time I say I live in The Bahamas when I'm Europe the eye of the people starts to shine and they start to fantasy about a suitcase of money passing border like in an old James Bond movie of the 70'

From there I try hard to do my part and explain that with FACTA and CRS the Bahamas is no longer a Tax Haven, and bored them to death with the reality... The USA is probably the only tax even today since they don't sign the EU Common Report Standard (CRS) while every other signed their FACTA Agreement, but it's less "exotic" and "sexy" for EU citizens to picture this reality.

Seriously the only way for the Bahamas to change this bias is maybe to invest massively in a terrible Television PR Campaign showing the hundreds of JOB lost in the financial industry the past 10 years, showing Societe General (French Bank) leaving the country after more than 20 years, and explain the fact that all the money flies to another tax haven long ago leaving your banking industry as it is today.

But still, nobody will cry for The Bahamas... Good luck with this reality.

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sealice 1 month, 3 weeks ago

France??? No one cares about France they aren't even their own country any more they're part of the Caliphate and have been for a while - they are the front line in WWIII or the last Crusade....whichever you want to call it.

Really France?? Make ya wine and cheese and shut ya pie holes everyone saved yer ass before and looks like we ga have to do it again soon....

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TheMadHatter 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Yes. I agree completely. The sooner the Muslims can finish taking over France and complete their internal destruction, the better for all. France will serve as a dim beacon for all other countries to have good sense not to suffer the same fate.
We have this LONE police officer here fighting his Muslim tingumajigg case through the Courts and today vowing to go to the Privy Council with it. Once you get one of those with a foot in the door, it is downhill from there. They are content with the way their countries really suck. Do not be fooled, though. They are not fleeing poverty etc in their countries. Poverty etc does not bother them. They are an invading force, and their have a brilliant public relations campaign, esp. in France where you can be fined by the Courts for even speaking anything negative about them. The mayor of Paris filed a lawsuit a few years ago against Fox News for saying something bad about Muslims after that newspaper shooting.

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Sickened 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Bahamians need to go to France and join in on the strike action.

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TalRussell 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Do take your camera when you goes see for yourself, what a princess thing $32,000 buys in 2019 dollars?
Returning more to the street corners and jibs most talked about in both colony's English and Creole languages about the most pressing local issue of the day, is did that designer thing constructed pass Christmas tree,really cost the PopoulacesOrdinaryPurse, the "princess" sum $32,000,, yeah,no - I said $32,000. You just can't make a $32,000 uglier than sin post Hurricane Dorian Christmas tree up. you just, cant.

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TheMadHatter 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Tal, please ask your doctor to increase the dosage on your meds. :-) :-) :-)

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birdiestrachan 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Mr:Turnquest can be as furious as he wishes. It means absolutely nothing.

Check with Mr: Sears and Mr: James Smith they will help you.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 2 weeks ago

LMAO - Sears and Smith both bear great responsibility for the unfavourable spot light constantly being shone on the Bahamas by global financial regulators. These two clowns also have close ties to the money laundering and other criminal enterprises operated by certain of the racketeering numbers bosses like that thug Sebas Bastian.

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TalRussell 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Yeah, no. by next week, the same KP, goin be claiming how the French have admitted it all was said in error, and that they have apologized?
If the then still new Imperialists red shirts politically appointed governor general, could propose fly-in his loyalists supporters from Grand Bahamalander to attend his royal swearing-in bash - then why hell not fly in we comrade Abacoians, for their chance to pose for pictures next to a Princess pricey designer Christmas tree which reportedly cost the PopoulaceOrdinaryPurse, something like the Princess sum of $32,000 - in Christmas shopping currency.. You just can't make this up, you just, can't. Same amount currency, could've built four additional Domes for Abacoians.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Let's just put a very high tariff rate on French champagne, French cheeses, and all French made luxury handbags, jewelry, etc. and be done with France one time. Better still, let's ban all Bahamians from traveling to France. We should also consider giving whatever moral and financial support that we can muster up to the Yellow Jackets in an effort to help them in their righteous quest to run looney-tune Macron out of France.

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banker 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Actually, Macron is a hell of a lot better than Sarkozy.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The French haven't had a decent political leader for decades now because of their very splintered and rigged political system. Things have gotten so bad that Paris is likely to loose, if it hasn't already lost, its long held standing as the most popular city in the world for tourists. Truth be told, France is a social and economic mess today.

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John 1 month, 3 weeks ago

France is singlehanded responsible for the condition of Haiti today. They hoodwinked and bamboozled Haitians into paying for their freedom. Trillions of dollars. At that time Haiti had one of the most advanced and booming economies in the West World. But after France got Haiti to pay for their freedom, which it was capable of doing. France got the rest of the world to secretly agree to not do trade with Haiti. And so France is responsible for the poverty in Haiti today and the illegal immigration to Lin the Bahamas. So piss on France . Piss on France 1000 Times and all it’s descendants into eternity and forever!

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John 1 month, 3 weeks ago

history doesn’t repeat itself, people repeat history. Don’t bow down this time to a known traitor nation.

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TalRussell 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Yeah, no.,word on street corners and jibs has it that the colony's comrade finance minister is calling for a boycott eatin French Fries!

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ThisIsOurs 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Well I suppose the good news is they can no longer be blind sided or surprised "when" we hit the next blacklist. They know it's coming so they've got their strategic plans in place

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John 1 month, 2 weeks ago

When they even suggest blacklisting the USA, Trump responds by threatening to withdraw membership. And notice it is the same set of nations who are constantly threatened. Nations that pander to them and spend the most time and make the most effort trying to comply.

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The_Oracle 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Zee frogs, they will hoist the white flag at zee slightest noise! Seriously, the Haitians bankrupt themselves paying for their independence: Such a noble but immolating endeavor. We however, immolate ourselves with no plan, massive debt, with nothing to show for it. Can't even build an outhouse for less than $500/Sq ft.

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