NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Having completed high-level meetings with Hungary and Finland last week, Attorney General Carl Bethel said he will meet with officials from Italy, Cyprus and Belgium this week as The Bahamas continues to make a case for removal from the European Union’s (EU) blacklist.
Speaking with Eyewitness News, Bethel said The Bahamas cannot approach the EU as a homogenous bloc, and it is critically important for the country to establish good contact with high-level officials at technical and political levels of all countries in the EU.
He noted the talks were not expected to have an immediate impact, but are geared toward “the future of the matured relationships between The Bahamas and each and every country in the European Union, and that is what we seek to forge”.
“This will be a process that will work its way through all of those countries throughout the European Union with whom we don’t have traditional, long-standing relations,” he told Eyewitness News.
“Most of, for example, we’ve had traditional relations with Spain, France, now Belgium, the United Kingdom [and] some contact with Germany as well, so we are looking sort of around that basic matrix and other countries.
“That’s why we are aiming at Italy in particular and also to reaffirm our relations with Belgium, although we’ve had a lot of interactions through our ambassador and through missions that both the former minister of finance and myself would have been a part of.
“And so, we are trying to expand the touch, if you will, the reach of The Bahamas to parts of the European Union who are unfamiliar with us.”
The attorney general completed talks with Hungary and Finland on Saturday last week.
He said The Bahamas will also reach out to Malta sometime this week.
In October, the European Union confirmed The Bahamas’ inclusion on a list of nations deemed to have deficiencies in their anti-financial crime defenses, which makes it “high risk”.
The Bahamas’ inclusion on the EU’s blacklist was based upon its presence on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) monitoring list.
Yesterday, Bethel said the removal from the FATF’s monitoring list was “moving at its own pace”.
The FATF concluded its on-site visit to The Bahamas.
The government awaits its recommendations on being de-listed from the FATF’s grey list.
“They’re moving step by step and we just await the ending of that process,” Bethel said.
In September, Bethel foreshadowed the blacklisting.
At the time, the attorney general said the matter was beyond The Bahamas’ control given the travel restrictions associated with the pandemic prevented the FATF’s onsite country assessment, which could see its removal from the grey list.
He previously hoped that an onsite assessment would be conducted in time for the country to get off the FATF’s monitoring list as early as February 2021.