Caribbean countries react to EU's latest blacklist


Caribbean countries react to EU's latest blacklist

Friday, May 08, 2020

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The three Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries that were on Thursday named in a new European Commission list of high-risk third countries with strategic deficiencies in their regime regarding anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing, have expressed disappointment at the position adopted by the Europeans.

The EU said under the Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD), it has revised its list to take into account developments at the international level since 2018, and that the “new list is now better aligned with the lists published by the FATF [Financial Action Task Force]”.

It said countries which have been listed are The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, along with Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama and Zimbabwe.

However, Guyana is among six other Third World countries that have been delisted.

But Bahamas Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Carl W Bethel said that Nassau “regrets” the decision, adding “this is especially so in light of an earlier public commitment made by the EU Commission to engage in discussions with potentially affected countries prior to placing them on their blacklist.

“To date, The Bahamas has not received any advance notification or warning at any diplomatic level.

The Bahamas maintains that it is attaining the highest standards in the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and other identified risks.”

Bethel said that it should also be noted that the FATF, at its January 2020 plenary in France, “agreed that The Bahamas should begin the exiting process from the FATF ICRG Gray List and had agreed to an on-site visit, which visit had to be postponed due only to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Bahamas remains fully committed to the highest standards of compliance with every internationally agreed standard of conduct,” he added.

Barbados Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Dale Marshall, in condemning the EU action, said it amounted to “a little more than a conviction without a trial.

“We have been given no details of this, and in fact the first time we are hearing of it is through the overseas press.

“Even the mighty must abide by the rules of natural justice and give us an opportunity to be heard. We do not have a seat at their table when our standing is being discussed, and if you say that we are a non-cooperative jurisdiction, then tell us in which areas you consider that we are not cooperating,” Marshall said, adding that “this approach of the EU is exactly the approach that was taken against us last year in relation to what they deemed to be harmful tax practices.”

Marshall said Barbados had made significant strides over the last two years with its anti-money laundering efforts. These efforts were recognised and lauded by the FATF.

Jamaica's Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke said the island ended up on the list because FATF has focused on countries where the economy's size is above a certain threshold – having US$5 billion of financial assets using a monetary measure known as M2.

“In 2019 FATF arbitrarily changed this measure to what is known as M3, which is a broader measure of the economy. This arbitrary change meant that, for the first time, Jamaica exceeded the US$5-billion threshold, which meant Jamaica would be included in the list of countries that FATF would focus on and monitor, a process known as 'greylisting',” he told the media.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips has called for the right balance to be struck to ensure that legitimate businesses are not compromised.

“We have to ensure that the rules set by the international organisations are in our best interest,” Phillips told Parliament on Tuesday,

The finance minister said that the Andrew Holness Government will be taking action to remedy deficiencies in Jamaica's framework for addressing UN-targeted financial sanctions related to terrorism, and amend laws governing the regulation of trusts and the non-profit sectors in order to improve AML/CFT (anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism) compliance.

He said Kingston would also seek to ensure an increase in money-laundering investigations that use financial intelligence, and amend the Companies Act to ensure that beneficial ownership disclosure standards are updated to be consistent with FATF standards.

“Jamaica has until late 2021 to complete its action plan. Once this is done, Jamaica will be removed from FATF's greylist and the reversal of the EU's action will also occur,” Clarke told Parliament on Tuesday.

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