Prime Minister Davis’s Remarks at the Financial Intelligence Unit MLRO Forum 2024

Good Day,

I am deeply honoured to be here as we highlight what we have done to move our jurisdiction from strength to strength in financial services, and discuss the challenges ahead of us, and how we will surmount them as we always have.

In recognising the potential threats of money laundering, terrorism financing, and proliferation, we also recognise our ability, through effective networking and collaboration, to build robust defences to efficiently and effectively combat these activities. 

The landscape as it relates to money laundering, terrorism, and proliferation financing is one that is ever-changing.   

Financial institutions are, in many ways, on the frontlines of this global fight.  Without their cooperation, there will be no Suspicious Transaction Reports to analyse or money laundering and illicit financial flows to investigate.  Without their input, new guidelines and policies cannot be developed to manage new technologies and trends that may arise in the industry. 

I applaud our financial institutions for the work they do in serving as the foundation of our world-class financial services sector, assisting us in safeguarding the integrity of our systems and bolstering our reputation for compliance with AML/CFT/CFP standards. 

Equally important in our fight against financial crimes are the regulators who must remain nimble in their approach to developing the most stringent standards in full compliance with global best practices. 

Our regulatory bodies must keep their fingers on the pulse to continuously review, update and strengthen our AML regulations and policies to capture emerging risks, identify trends, and close identified loopholes that can adversely affect the AML landscape.  

As a member state of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, we have an obligation to ensure that The Bahamas maintains the highest level of compliance and efficiency in implementing the AML standards set by the Financial Action Task Force.  

We know all too well that our jurisdiction has previously faced challenges, having been placed on international blacklists and graylists. These designations required us to navigate complex and demanding processes to clear our name and restore our standing.

In 2015, we were evaluated on our money laundering framework and the 2017 Mutual Evaluation Report unfortunately highlighted some severe deficiencies in the anti-money laundering regime.  

We acted with haste to correct these issues. Our actions culminated in The Bahamas becoming the sixth country in the world to become largely compliant with all 40 of the FATF’s 40 recommendations, placing us at the pinnacle of integrity in the financial world. 

This is great progress brought about by a nation which, despite its small size, despite its developing nation status, and despite not having the influence of larger, wealthier nations, continues to set the standard and adapts to retain our place atop the global financial services ladder.

I believe one of our richest assets is our people. We have arguably the most financial services talent per capita in the world. 

I tip my hat to all of the financial services professionals who have a hand in keeping the sector going strong.

Our achievements in compliance demonstrate the steadfast dedication of our stakeholders: from our financial institutions to our regulatory bodies, from our law enforcement agencies to our Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), each stakeholder has played a pivotal role in shaping and strengthening our AML/CFT/CFP framework.

With another mutual evaluation assessment on the horizon, we must ensure that we maintain our precedent of compliance excellence to avoid stumbling into the pitfalls of the past.  

Moving forward, we must remain steadfast in our resolve to uphold the integrity of our financial systems and protect our jurisdiction from the scourge of financial crime. Let’s continue to collaborate, innovate, and adapt to emerging threats, ensuring that our AML regime remains robust, effective, and resilient in the face of evolving challenges. Let us lead by example and inspire others to follow in our footsteps, recognising that our commitment to integrity not only safeguards our jurisdiction but contributes to the stability and security of the global financial community. 

Having established ourselves as world leaders in compliance will further amplify our voices when it comes to calling for reforms. This is especially helpful in instances where we are calling for a halt to the unfair and discriminatory standards applied to nations like ours while others are measured by different standards.

I have repeatedly decried this hypocrisy internationally and we have joined other nations in calling for a change that has now led to international standards now being increasingly and rightfully placed in the hands of the UN rather than the EU or the OECD.

Our commitment to compliance makes it clear that our desire for change is not motivated by a lack of willingness to comply with high standards but by a desire for fairness, reasonableness, and equality among jurisdictions so that haphazard discriminatory and bully-style tactics no longer have a place when it comes to protecting the integrity of global financial systems.

It is, thanks to the efforts of all of our stakeholders, that we have not only made our financial services sector more transparent and secure, but in positioning our AML/CFT/CFP measures as beyond reproach, we now have a credible voice on the world stage that will influence positive change for all financial services jurisdictions. 

That is the true power of what we can accomplish through collaboration, and the discussions we have through this forum represent a potential launching point for the future of financial services in this nation.

Thank you for the invitation to join you in having these enlightening discussions. I look forward to great developments that will emerge as a result.