Don’t worry about France, pursue other jurisdictions – says former BICA president

Don’t worry about France, pursue other jurisdictions – says former BICA president
Gowon Bowe

NASSAU, BAHAMAS –  The Bahamas should be more aggressive in pursuing financial services jurisdictions that will provide greater ‘bang for the buck’, according to a former Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) president.

Gowon Bowe told Eyewitness News Online French offshore banks have long began their exit from this jurisdiction as the country has introduced laws making it almost impossible for them to  operate in offshore financial centres.

“We are not going to be all things to all people,” he said, commenting on the recent decision by France to add this nation to its tax haven blacklist.

Bowe continued: “When we start speaking about the major destinations that we want to do business with I think we have to appreciate  that notwithstanding that the European Union is a grouping of countries, each of the countries has a certain degree of sovereignty.

“They have the ability to write their own laws and regulations. When we are caught  by surprise it is not an embarrassment but it does say that we have a lot fo work to do to do in order to be at the table when discussions are taking place.  We need to be realistic and determine which markets in the world we want to do financial services with.”

Bowe said: “A lot of people may not know that the French for a very long time have been instigators of tax transparency initiatives. If you look at the French banking groups that operate in The Bahamas, they have long started closing down.

“France has created laws and regulations that have made it virtually impossible for them to operate in offshore centres.

“The question is whether France and its citizens is a target market for us,” he said.

“While no blacklisting is positive, we need to focus on those markets and jurisdictions where we are still actually having a successful run of selling our financial services products.”

French Public Accounts Minister Gerald Darmanin made the announcement regarding the blacklisting on Sunday, with Anguilla, Virgin Islands, Bahamas and Seychelles also being added to its blacklist.

However, the government did not receive official communication the French Government has included the country on its list of non-cooperative states and territories in tax matters, until yesterday.

In a communication to Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest expressed anger over the shock move.

Turnquest said: “It is disappointing and regrettable that France did not engage the dispute resolution mechanisms provided in the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters, which we signed in December 2017, to facilitate the exchange of information for tax purposes.

“This 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.”

Mr Turnquest underscored The Bahamas is a member of the Global Forum for Tax Transparency, as is France.

“I was in France last week at the Global Forum Plenary with the French Minister of Finance and at no time was it indicated that France was considering this action or that there was a concern,” Turnquest continued.

“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.”

However, Bowe said he does not think the country should be perceived to be hurt by the blacklisting.

“We need  to now be more aggressive and say what the markets are that we want to target and we will be working very aggressively with their legislature to ensure that we have the strongest presence,” Bowe said.

“We are not going to be all things to all people. We need to target jurisdictions with greater bang for the buck.”