Regime change for $80m dormant funds

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

REFORMS to laws governing $80m in dormant bank accounts were tabled in Parliament yesterday.

The planned changes to the Central Bank of the Bahamas Act are designed to enable the regulator to deal more effectively with such accounts, which have to be transferred to it after being inactive for seven years.

The Central Bank of the Bahamas Amendment Bill 2018 is intended to repeal and replace the existing Act's section 24. Under the new regime, all dormant accounts with balances under $500, or those with $500 or more that have been held by the Central Bank for a minimum of ten years, will be earmarked for transfer to the Public Treasury within either two months or two months after the end of the calendar year in which the ten-year period expires.

Based on data contained in the Central Bank's latest annual report, 79 percent of the nearly 38,900 dormant accounts had balances below $500. Based on previous Tribune Business reports, more than $80m is being held in inactive bank accounts.

Also tabled in Parliament yesterday was the Banks and Trust Companies Regulation Amendment Bill 2018, which deals with the treatment of dormant accounts held by banks. Such accounts also include credit balances on loans; collateral held on a loan; funds paid for shares; securities; a deposit account of precious metals; and gemstones not including jewellery.

"Within two months after the end of the calendar year in which the seven-year period expired, banks must pay the Central Bank an amount equal to - and in the same currency denomination - as the amount owing by the bank in respect of the dormant account, including cash from dormant safety deposit boxes or liquidate a dormant account, including a safety deposit box containing precious metals, precious gemstones or securities and, after deducting the reasonable costs incurred in connection with the liquidation of the account, pay the balance of the proceeds of sale of such account to the Central Bank," the bill says.

Banks will have to maintain a register of dormant accounts containing names, addresses, contacts, type of facility, fee status and date of last transaction.w