Critical financial crime Bills to pass next week

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

THE Government yesterday said it remained focused on "shoring up" weaknesses in its anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing (AML/CTF) regime, ahead of a June inspection.

K Peter Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister told Tribune Business that the Proceeds of Crime Bill and Financial Reporting Bill - two pieces of legislation he said are crucial to the Government's efforts to overhaul the financial services regulatory regime - will likely be passed in Parliament next week.

The two Bills are essential to addressing the deficiencies identified last year in the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force's (CFATF) assessment of the Bahamas. This nation is due to be imminently assessed by that organisation's parent, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to determine whether the necessary corrective action has been taken. A negative finding could result in sanctions/counter-measures again being taken against this nation.

"We are rated as largely compliant," Mr Turnquest said. "We recognise that there have been some weaknesses that have been identified that we know we have to address. We are focused on shoring up those weaknesses, strengthening our AML/CFT regime, changing processes to more risk-based to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of these processes. "That includes strengthening the organisations that are involved in the whole regulatory aspect of AML/CTF. We believe that we have made improvements, and will continue to strengthen and make further improvements as we move along to continue to maintain our high ratings levels."

A national anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing conference is set to be held in Nassau on September 17-18, in a bid to highlight the Bahamas' efforts to address financial crime and its prevention.

The conference will provide an opportunity to engage in dialogue on global trends impacting AML/CTF, as well as focus on risk management issues within specific industries.

Mr Turnquest said: "The Government has taken the approach that we want to be the thought leaders in terms of AML/CTF, as well financial regulation overall. We have historically been chasing developments, particularly in respect to regulations and best standards and best practices, following the EU or the US and any number of international regulators.

"We want to join the conversation so we can help to shape the direction in which financial services is going in terms of best practices, and make sure that the international community understands and appreciates the vulnerabilities that we, as small island states and international financial centres, have.

"We also want to expose the quality of our jurisdiction and our professionals on the regulatory and private sector side."

John Rolle, Central Bank Governor, added: "Our intention is to strengthen awareness, effectiveness and compliance for the entire financial services sector. A part of that approach is going through sector by sector to identify areas where those improvements need to be most targeted."