By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas has addressed several issues that resulted in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) listing it among nations with deficiencies in their anti-financial crime defenses, the attorney general said yesterday.
Carl Bethel QC told an anti-money laundering conference organised by financial services regulators that his office has installed a case management system to better track its progress in responding to requests from overseas authorities and supervisors - one of seven major weaknesses identified by the FATF.
“The Office of the Attorney General has secured and populated a case management system, and this is important because it is another scorch against us that we didn’t have a case management system that anyone could see in existence," Mr Bethel said.
"We have obtained a case management programme that allows us to maintain accurate records, receive prompts and print our reports so we can actually show the world that we are running an efficient, time sensitive and responsive case management system for all requests for international assistance and information.”
Mr Bethel, while addressing the anti-money laundering/counter terror financing (AML/CFT) risk management seminar at the Melia resort, said the Financial Intelligence Unit has also secured several important software upgrades.
The FIU now has an electronic filing system for suspicious transaction reports (STR), and can correspond directly with financial institutions in order to get information to assist them to more effectively process and analyse these reports.
Mr Bethel said that rigorously addressing the backlog of STRs is tangible evidence of The Bahamas' progress. He added that the Royal Bahamas Police Force's (RBPF) Financial Crimes Unit also has a database to capture statistics on money laundering prosecutions, convictions and investigations.
“There has been a marked increase in the number of money laundering prosecutions that have been initiated and judicial training is underway,” said Mr Bethel. The Bahamas had been criticised by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for not having enough prosecutions for money laundering activities, with the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), its regional affiliate, citing that the RBPF lacked the capacity to effectively pursue money laundering offenders due to inadequate skills, training and resources.
The FATF, the global standard setter in the fight against money laundering and terror financing, will not consider The Bahamas for removal from its monitoring list until this nation submits its completed "action plan" for addressing the identified deficiencies.
Mr Bethel earlier this week told Tribune Business that the "action plan's" completion is targeted for this September, which will enable it to be evaluated at the FATF's October 2019 conference. Should it meet with the FATF's approval, the body will likely visit The Bahamas to ensure the plan is being implemented in reality before removing this nation from the list.
This implies that the earliest that The Bahamas can expect to be removed is at the FATF's next conference in February 2020.
According to the FATF, the seven weaknesses that The Bahamas must address are:
Developing and implementing a comprehensive electronic case management system for international cooperation.
Demonstrating risk-based supervision of non-bank financial institutions.
Ensuring the timely access to adequate, accurate and current basic and beneficial ownership information.
Increasing the quality of the Financial Intelligence Unit's (FIU) products to assist law enforcement authorities in the pursuit of money laundering/terror financing investigations, including "complex" cases.
Demonstrating that authorities are investigating and prosecuting all types of money laundering, including "complex" money laundering cases; stand-alone money laundering; and cases involving proceeds of foreign offences.
Demonstrating that confiscation proceedings are initiated and concluded for all types of money laundering cases.
Addressing gaps in the terrorism financing and proliferation financing frameworks, and demonstrating implementation.
These issues were again highlighted in the FATF's statement last Friday, which said: "The Bahamas should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies.
"Since October 2018, when The Bahamas made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and CFATF to strengthen the effectiveness of its AML/CFT (anti-money laundering/counter terror financing) regime and address any related technical deficiencies, The Bahamas has taken steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including by beginning its initial implementation of the recent beneficial ownership law and bringing the anti-terrorism regulations into force."