But Bowe says Major misinterpreted his comments
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas Gaming Operator’s Association (BGOA) has taken grave exception to statements made by the Chairman of the Clearing Banks Association (CBA), which suggest that the local gaming industry is a conduit for money laundering.
Gershon Major, President, BGOA, via a press statement issued on Monday has called for Gowon Bowe, Chairman of the CBA, to retract the statements which BGOA views as inaccurate and inappropriate.
“We find it disturbing that the CBA Chairman, without any empirical evidence, would call into question the recent findings of the Gaming Board of The Bahamas, published in ‘The Bahamas 2018 AML/CFT Report’ released by the Governor of the Central Bank,” the statement said.
“The report contained the conclusion of the Gaming Board that, “The findings do not support any assertion that gaming houses are conduits for material money laundering.’”
Major asserted that Bowe’s stance questions the integrity of the Governor of the Central Bank and the group of financial services regulators that published the report.
“Whether the Chairman realizes it or not, his statements, which were made without any empirical support, discredit the work of the country’s most critical regulatory bodies,” Major said.
The BGOA president said Bowe’s scathing review came at a time “when The Bahamas is contesting an onslaught of ‘blacklisting,’ which threaten the survival of our financial services industry.”
Major continued, “In his statements, Mr. Bowe asserted that one of the hurdles in accepting deposits from the gaming sector was the ‘elevated-risk’ associated with ‘aggregate cash deposits.
“Mr. Bowe suggested that while the report focused on the individual accounts of gaming customers, the origins of the “aggregate cash deposits” could not be adequately traced.”
Major further questioned Bowe’s assertions considering that the rigorous Know Your Customer (KYC) rules, which apply to CBA members when establishing accounts for their customers, are the very same criteria applied to and by domestic gaming house operators.
“If the KYC measures are the same for both domestic gaming operators and members of the CBA, one would think that the aggregate deposits from gaming customers would have already met the litmus test,” Major questioned.
“Mr. Bowe referred to a second hurdle related to the existing relationships with corresponding banks and the fear that those relationships may be jeopardized if local banks receive deposits from BGOA members.
“The reason for this fear is still unclear given that the CBA has not clearly articulated what those concerns are to the domestic gaming industry and certainly not formally to the BGOA, which represents them. “
The BGOA’s statement noted that “it is clear that banks can choose whoever they want to do business with, but statements like the one made by the CBA chairman are counterproductive, dangerous and unfounded.”
Major asserted that government has legalized the industry and noted that it should be respected as a legal operation without unfounded scrutiny.
“The ‘business decision’ of individual banks cannot make illegal what the Parliament has declared legal,” he said.
“Gaming house operators and banks, as regulated financial institutions, should work together to strengthen confidence in the Group of Financial Services Regulators rather than erode domestic and international confidence in this jurisdiction.
“Unless the Chairman of the CBA, can provide evidence to the claims which he has made, then we call on him to retract his statements.”
Bowe responded to Major’s comments on Monday.
In an interview with Eyewitness News Online on Monday night, he said that the BGOA misinterpreted his comments and welcomed Major to have dialogue without the media’s involvement.
“There is an old saying that says, ‘I am responsible for what I say, not how people interpret it,’ so, from that perspective, they can choose to respond [to what was said] as they see fit,” Bowe said.
“I think when we speak about discrimination I think we evoke emotive responses as opposed to dispassionate discussion around what are the matters, and I feel certain that is what my [statements] conveyed and their interpretation is for them.
“I am not saying that it [the gaming industry] is a money laundering conduit. I am saying that that was one issue that has been addressed and there are other issues that still need to be resolved and those need to be done in a one-on-one discussion and not in the press.”
Major said the BGOA welcomes an open and productive dialogue with the CBA and its members to further develop a dynamic and innovative domestic industry.