NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas appears set to be branded by the the European Union Commission as a high risk jurisdiction for financial crimes, with Attorney General Carl Bethel suggesting that the government was blindsided by the move.
According to Reuters, the European Commission is set to include Panama, the Bahamas, Mauritius and nine other countries to its list of states that pose a financial risks to the 28 nation bloc because of anti-money laundering and terrorism financing shortfalls.
The list which is reportedly set to be published on Thursday also includes Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe.
The blacklisting could cause harm to the Bahamas’ reputation in the financial services industry and comes at a time when the country’s number one industry is effectively shutdown.
Attorney General Carl Bethel said: “The Bahamas regrets the apparent decision of the EU Commission to signal an intention to add The Bahamas to a Blacklist which the EU Parliament mandates that the Commission maintain. This is especially so in light of an earlier public commitment made by the EU Commission to engage in discussions with potentially affected countries prior to placing them on their Blacklist.”
Bethel said: “To date, The Bahamas has not received any advanced notification or warning at any diplomatic level. The Bahamas maintains that it is attaining the highest standards in the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and other identified risks.
“It should also be noted that the FATF at its January Plenary in Paris, France, agreed that The Bahamas should begin the exiting process from the FATF ICRG Gray List and had agreed to an on-site visit; which visit had to be postponed due only to the COVID 19 pandemic.
He added: “The Bahamas remains fully committed to the highest standards of compliance with every internationally agreed standard of conduct.”
Last February, The Bahamas was blacklisted by the commission due to “strategic deficiencies” in its anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) legislation, a move the government pushed back against.
At the time, Bethel called it “unwarranted, prejudiced and indefensible”, with the government Prime Minister’s Office also noting that the move had not given consideration for reforms and improvements in the country’s AML/CFT framework.