AG Calls for Robust Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Regime

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 Attorney General the Hon. Claire Hepburn

By: Mark Symonette 

NASSAU, Bahamas – Attorney General the Hon. Claire Hepburn called for the development of a collaborative framework that would produce an efficient, effective and robust anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism regime in The Bahamas.

Mrs. Hepburn spoke at the opening of a National Strategy on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism seminar sponsored by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) other government departments and financial services regulators at the British Colonial Hilton Monday.

“Our Government is committed to the global fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. We fully appreciate that this calls for us making available to the extent possible the means and resources to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism on an ongoing basis,” Mrs. Hepburn said.

She said The Bahamas, like many of its global partners, understands the magnitude of the problem of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

“However, the inescapable reality is that as a small nation, The Bahamas does not have all of the necessary resources on its own to tackle the global menaces of money laundering and the financing of terrorism problems. Accordingly, we must always adopt a cooperative and proactive approach to these issues,” Mrs. Hepburn added.

She noted that organizations involved with money laundering and financing of terrorism have access to extensive amounts of human, financial and other resources, in their quest to extend and perpetuate their criminal enterprises and global networks.

“Therefore, there is a need for coordinated international approach to combating money laundering and financing of terrorism in order to shut down such criminal organizations,” the Attorney General said.

She said notwithstanding its limited resources, The Bahamas stands committed to implementing to the extent possible those systems, procedures, institutions and other counter-measures stipulated in the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) Forty-plus-Nine Recommendations.

In fact, she said from as far back as 2000, the Government has demonstrated its commitment to maintaining ongoing compliance with international standards and best practices by enacting a comprehensive package of financial legislation.

“Our commitment is reflected further by the fact that The Bahamas is a signatory to and has ratified, in part, various United Nations Conventions, including the United Nations Convention against Trafficking in Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (The Vienna Convention) and the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism,” Mrs. Hepburn said.

Further, she said, the financial services regulators continue to be affiliated with international organizations such as the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and the Egmont Group (FIU).

Mrs. Hepburn noted that the Central Bank has signed Memoranda of Understanding with a number of its overseas counterparts and is affiliated with the Offshore Group of Bank Supervisors and The Basle Committee.

She said the Registrar of Insurance is affiliated with the International Association of Insurance Supervisors while The Bahamas is a member of International Association of Gaming Regulators.

According to Mrs. Hepburn, the Securities Commission is engaged in discussions with the International Organization of Securities Commission (IOSCO) with a view to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with that organization.

She noted that a number of Bahamians are key players in these international organizations including Deputy Director of the FIU, Police Superintendent Edward Smith, who currently serves as a member of the Egmont Committee in his capacity as Co-Representative for The Americas region and Vice Chairman of the Egmont Outreach Working Group.

Mrs. Hepburn noted that in June, 2006 Mr. Smith was unanimously selected to and subsequently chaired a special select committee that oversaw the transition of the Egmont Group from operating on an ad hoc basis to permanent legal status and as an international organization, having its headquarters and secretariat in Toronto, Canada as of September, 2007.

“While we note the importance of global cooperation in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, it is especially important that within our country we establish and develop a collaborate framework that would produce a very efficient, effective and robust anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism regime,” Mrs. Hepburn said.

She said it is commendable that the seminar brought together key players from throughout the financial services industry to engage in meaningful dialogue and discussions.

“If we are to have any measurable success in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, we need to realize that there must be a collaborative approach and effort by all of the relevant stakeholders.

“It is not sufficient that we promote international and regional cooperation,” Mrs. Hepburn said. “We must at the same time promote strategic partnerships among the key players within our country.”