Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs Hosts Risk Assessment Workshop
#TheBahamas, April 26, 2022 – Non-Profit Organizations were invited to participate in a workshop to assist the government in meeting its goal of becoming fully compliant to Recommendation 8 of the Financial Action Task Force’s Risk Assessment Criteria in relation to Non-Profit Organizations. The country’s rating as it relates to Non-Profit Organizations is currently ‘Partially Compliant’ since the last assessment in 2021. A two-day workshop was conducted by the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs at Baha Mar April 5-6, 2022 led by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Hon. Ryan Pinder.
Among the participants were church leaders, controllers and presidents of charitable organizations and other stakeholders. Also in attendance was the Minister of State in the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Hon. Jomo Campbell. Moderators for the event included Dr. Cassandra Nottage, National Identified Risk Co-ordinator and Tiffany Moss, Senior Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer at the Office of the Attorney General.
Minister Pinder said that the NPO Risk Assessment Training and Workshop is a very important and necessary exercise, given the important role that the sector plays in the country’s economy.
“As most of you would know, The Bahamas is a founding member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) , the regional Financial Action Task Force (FATF) body. In 2015, The Bahamas underwent an assessment of its implementation of the FATF 40 Recommendations. Of these, Recommendation 8, which deals with non-profit organizations, was evaluated as “Partly Compliant” by examiners. A partially compliant rating essentially means that The Bahamas has not fully implemented the requirements of Recommendation 8, and there are deficiencies within its legislative framework.”
The objective of Recommendation 8 is to ensure that NPOs are not misused by terrorist organizations:
1.To pose as legitimate entities.
2.To exploit legitimate entities as conduits for terrorist financing, including for the purpose of escaping asset freezing measures.
3.To conceal or obscure the clandestine diversion of funds intended for legitimate purposes, but diverted for terrorist purposes.
Mr. Pinder said that currently, there are approximately 1,047 NPOs registered in the country. He explained that the Compliance Unit has completed the process of a preliminary assessment of the sector by conducting a desktop review to enable the risk profiling of each individual NPO.
The team, he said, has employed risk rating criteria, which when coupled with the detailed analysis of information obtained from questionnaires, and interviews, will allow an identification and comprehensive assessment of the types of NPOs that are likely to be at risk of terrorist financing abuse.
“The results of the risk assessment exercise will inform a risk based or, in other words ‘targeted’ supervision and monitoring of the NPO sector in The Bahamas,” he said.
“I am sure it will bring much comfort to many of you if the outcome of this risk assessment demonstrates that you are at little to no risk for terrorist financing abuse. This will, no doubt, place you in a low risk category with little supervision and monitoring. If the outcome, however, if there are risks to terrorist financing abuse, and corresponding vulnerabilities due to the nature of your activities and engagement with international elements, then by all means, enhanced monitoring and supervision would be warranted.”
He noted the vital role NPOs play in the local economy, but said they also play a role in the global economy. “Your efforts complement government activities in providing essential services as well as comfort and in many cases, spiritual guidance and hope to those in need, “he said. “NPOs have been a critical partner in providing much needed assistance with disaster relief efforts in The Bahamas and throughout the world. We have seen this first hand with our own experiences with Hurricane Dorian in 2019. Our NPOs were on the ground providing support to thousands of Bahamians; along with many of our churches, which were involved. These efforts are commendable.”
He said, however, that despite legitimate efforts, the events of September 11 coupled with the ongoing international campaign against terrorist financing have demonstrated that terrorists and terrorist organizations exploit the NPO sector to raise and move funds, provide logistical support, encourage terrorist recruitment or otherwise support terrorist organizations and operations. This misuse, he emphasized, undermines donor confidence and compromises the integrity of NPOs.
The Minister explained that in May 2021, The Bahamas applied to the CFATF for a re-rating of FATF Recommendations, which were rated as partially compliant and two recommendations were revised since the Bahamas’ Mutual Evaluation. During The CFATF Plenary in December 2021, The Bahamas received nine upgrades, one downgrade and two ratings were maintained. Recommendation 15 was downgraded from Largely Compliant and Recommendation 8 maintained a rating of Partially Compliant.
“The completion of the risk assessment, with your input through questionnaires and interviews, will enable The Bahamas to further comply with Recommendation 8. In May 2022, next month, The Bahamas will make an application for an upgrade from “partially compliant” to “largely compliant” or better yet “fully compliant.”
During her overview of The FATF Recommendation 8, Tiffany Moss pointed out that several criteria increased the risk of NPOs as it relates to terrorist finance abuse, including those with annual turnovers of $75,000 or higher and cross-border movement of cash (such as those with parent companies or affiliates in another jurisdiction), among other risk levels.
FBI and Bahamas looking into woman’s death
#TheBahamas, March 17, 2023 – The FBI is investigating a woman’s ‘suspicious’ death on a Carnival Cruise ship in February. The unnamed woman and her husband boarded the Carnival Sunshine on February 27th, for a trip to the Bahamas, but she was dead before they arrived in the port in The Bahamas.
The FBI said Carnival’s team had administered life saving measures when the woman was reported unresponsive, but they were unsuccessful. The body and the woman’s husband were released to the Bahamian authorities when the cruise arrived in the country.
In a statement shared with US media houses, Carnival Cruises claimed the death has been a natural one. The Nassau Guardian said a source told them the police findings had concurred with that assessment saying it was a “normal sudden death of a tourist who wasn’t feeling well.”
The FBI was waiting for the cruise and when it got back to South Carolina on March 4th, they immediately boarded and began to investigate the room based on ‘evidence of a crime.’ The FBI also searched the couple’s car.
No updates have been shared to contradict the currently established cause of death.
Why Sargassum Matters
#TheBahamas, March 17, 2023 – “If you don’t like it, go to another beach!” Is what Aaron John, an Education Officer from The Bahamas National Trust jokingly tells our news team about sargassum blooms; his quip, motivated by the necessity of nature when pit against the notion that there is a real threat when the stinky seaweed makes its annual appearance.
John can admit, he says, that Sargassum isn’t very pretty but life isn’t all about aesthetics and in this instance that ugly patch serves a purpose.
“We love our sandy beaches, but in order to keep them we need Sargassum. When storms come, they wash away all the sand off the beach but sargassum acts as a mulch to protect the sand from water erosion. It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t feel good but we need it.”
He said it also provides a habitat for small crustaceans, crabs, and insects that are all necessary to our ecosystem and islanders have found use for the weed.
“Historically, (in The Bahamas) we have been using sargassum as fertilizer, especially in the family Islands as far back as I know,” he said. “Birds don’t go on the beach unless there is Sargassum and what do they do? they feed – it’s beautiful.”
He encouraged residents to just leave it be if they came across it.
Sargassum isn’t harmful to humans, except for people with respiratory issues who may find the rotten egg smell triggers asthma. Despite this, it’s not advisable to walk through the weeds which may hide sharp rocks and bottles or vulnerable animals.
Experts say Sargassum blooms began to increase in size around 2011 and have continued to get bigger and bigger since. This year‘s bloom is around 5000 miles long and 300 miles wide and visible from space.
“I know it’s not a general outlook, but I would like to change the perspective on sargassum,” John said, pointing out The Bahamas National Trust is actively working to decrease alarm over the less worrisome events like sargassum as it raises the profile on the environmentally devastating.
Lease agreement approved for diaspora office
#TurksandCaicos, March 17, 2023 – The Turks and Caicos’ Bahamas Diaspora Office is moving closer and closer to opening day, following the Cabinet’s approval for the signing of a lease agreement.
The lease will be signed with FINCEN ltd in the Bahamas. Several weeks ago, Arlington Musgrove, Minister of Immigration confirmed to our news team that the location had been found and was being finalized; now a lease is approved at the Cabinet level.
The interest in the TCI from TC Bahamians was evident in the diaspora meetings held in early February. The two meetings held in Nassau and Grand Bahama were completely full and over-subscribed by hundreds.
It’s interest which the Government hopes will translate to real life population growth, bolstering the local population before the native population ‘goes extinct’.
The Opposition PDM is on the record with what it feels is a far more viable solution to a dwindling native population; seek out the country’s own citizens and bring them back home.
Cabinet did not state when the office will open.
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