NASSAU, BAHAMAS — This nation ought to be “guarded” in any celebration of the delisting from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list of nations, according to a former attorney general who described the move as merely a pause in an “ongoing protectionist assault”.
Alfred Sears, QC, commenting on the recent announcement that the FATF has removed this nation from its grey list of nations deemed to have deficiencies in their anti-financial crime defenses, said: “We ought to be guarded in any celebration because it’s only a pause in an ongoing protectionist assault against The Bahamas. We should develop the courage as well as sophistication to defend ourselves by designing and executing a global campaign to remove money laundering from the FATF and the European Union and put it under an international convention in which we are an equal participant.”
The Paris-based body had listed The Bahamas as one of nearly a dozen jurisdictions with strategic anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies, meaning that it may have posed a risk to the international financial system.
Sears told Eyewitness News: “I think that we are really playing musical chairs in a process that is fundamentally flawed and contrary to basic principles of international law. We ought to challenge what the process [is] because it violates the fundamental principles of sovereign autonomy and it is unequally applied.
“It is only applied to non-European offshore jurisdictions and the onshore jurisdictions which are in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) member countries have the same deficiencies but are not subject to the penal sanctions which are imposed on offshore jurisdictions.
“That is fundamentally unfair and violates international law. I believe The Bahamas and other financial centers ought to engage in a global campaign to remove anti-money laundering regulation away from the FATF and put it under international convention supervised by the UN (United Nations), of which The Bahamas is a member.”
Sears added: “I think we have to see this period of dislocation in the world to influence the post-COVID global order for there to be more equity, more space and a more level playing field for offshore financial centers and former colonial nation states such as The Bahamas to be able to compete within a level playing field.
“Every time they impose a negative sanction on us, we become less competitive [and] there is a flight of portfolio investments away from The Bahamas, usually to the benefit of high-tax jurisdictions and onshore financial centers.”