Countries/Jurisdictions of Primary Concern - Bahamas
The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a regional and offshore financial center. The country’s economy is heavily reliant upon tourism, tourism-driven construction, and the offshore financial sector. The Bahamas remains a transit point for illegal drugs bound for the United States and other international markets. The major sources of laundered proceeds are drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, gambling, and human smuggling. There is a black market for smuggled cigarettes and guns. Money laundering trends include the purchase of real estate, large vehicles, boats, and jewelry, as well as the processing of money through a complex web of legitimate businesses and international business companies (IBCs) registered in the offshore financial sector. Drug traffickers and other criminal organizations take advantage of the large number of IBCs and offshore banks registered in the Bahamas to launder significant sums of money.
According to a 2013 report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bahamian financial system is “exceptionally large,” reflecting the country’s role as a “major offshore financial center.” The report noted the financial system had total gross assets equivalent to 96 times GDP with total assets of the offshore banking sector equivalent to 75 times GDP. The offshore sector consists mostly of branches or subsidiaries of global financial institutions and pursues a variety of business models.
The archipelagic nature of the Bahamas and its proximity to the United States make the entire country accessible by all types of watercraft, including small sail boats and power boats, thereby making smuggling and moving bulk cash relatively easy. The country has one large free trade zone (FTZ), Freeport Harbor. The FTZ is managed by a private entity, the Freeport Harbor Company, owned and operated through a joint venture between Hutchison Port Holdings (a subsidiary of Hutchison Wampoa, based in Hong Kong) and The Port Group (The Grand Bahama Port Authority, the Bahamian parastatal regulatory agency). The Freeport Harbor Company includes the Freeport Container Port and Grand Bahama International Airport as well as private boat, ferry, and cruise ship facilities and roll-on/roll-off facilities for containerized cargo and car transshipments. Freeport Harbor has the closest offshore port to the United States.
Casino gaming is legal for tourists. The Bahamas has four large casinos, including a casino in Bimini that draws in customers from the United States via a ferry service to and from Miami. The $3.5 billion Chinese Export-Import Bank-funded Baha Mar Casino and Resort on New Providence Island, which has been in development since 2011, did not open as scheduled in 2015. If opened, it would be the largest casino in the Caribbean. Current law prohibits Bahamian citizens, permanent residents, and temporary workers from gambling in casinos. However, gaming operations based on U.S.-based lottery results and hosted on the internet, locally known as “web shops,” flourish in the Bahamas. In September 2014, the government passed a comprehensive gaming bill designed to regulate the web shops and bring internet-based gaming into compliance with industry standards. Implementation is ongoing. Regulations require web shop operators to apply for a license, pay taxes on revenue and property, and comply with internal control standards.
For additional information focusing on terrorist financing, please refer to the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism, which can be found at: http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/
Do FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONs engage in currency transactions related to international narcotics trafficking that include significant amounts of US currency; currency derived from illegal sales in the U.S.; or illegal drug sales that otherwise significantly affect the U.S.: YES
criminalizATION OF money laundering:
“All serious crimes” approach or “list” approach to predicate crimes: List approach
Are legal persons covered: criminally: YES civilly: YES
Know-your-customer (KYC) rules:
Enhanced due diligence procedures for PEPs: Foreign: YES Domestic: YES
KYC covered entities: Banks and trust companies, insurance companies, securities firms and investment fund administrators, credit unions, financial and company service providers, cooperatives, societies, casinos, lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents
Number of STRs received and time frame: Not available
Number of CTRs received and time frame: Not applicable
STR covered entities: Banks and trust companies, insurance companies, securities firms and investment fund administrators, credit unions, financial and company service providers, cooperatives, societies, casinos, lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents
money laundering criminal Prosecutions/convictions:
Prosecutions: Not available
Convictions: Not available
Records exchange mechanism:
With U.S.: MLAT: YES Other mechanism: YES
With other governments/jurisdictions: YES
The Bahamas is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, (CFATF), a FATF-style regional body. Its most recent mutual evaluation can be found at: https://www.cfatf-gafic.org/index.php/documents/cfatf-mutual-evaluation-reports/the-bahamas-1
Enforcement and implementation issues and comments:
The Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas has the requisite institutional and legal framework to combat money laundering. In order to better gauge the effectiveness of the government’s AML programs, authorities should release information on the numbers of suspicious transaction reports (STRs), prosecutions, and convictions.
The IMF report noted that, while oversight of the financial system has improved, the Bahamas is still recognized as a significant tax haven. For example, the Bahamas does not disclose in a public registry information about trusts and foundations; the Bahamas does not maintain official records of company beneficial ownership or place them in a public registry; there are no requirements that company accounts be placed on public record; nor does the Bahamas require resident paying agents to tell the domestic tax authorities about payments to non-residents.
The government’s National Anti-Money Laundering Task Force, which meets monthly, is led by the Inspector at the Compliance Commission and includes representatives from the government and private sector. The goal of the body is to implement and comply with international standards to prevent and control money laundering and combat terrorist financing. The Task Force should seek to engender an AML culture in the Bahamas.
The Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas should continue to provide resources and training to its law enforcement, judicial, and prosecutorial bodies in order to investigate and prosecute money laundering; enforce existing legislation; and safeguard the financial system from possible abuses. With the expansion of gaming oversight, the government should ensure full implementation of appropriate safeguards, and continue to provide STR training. The Financial Intelligence Unit, in cooperation with Royal Bahamas Police Force financial investigators, should continue its outreach, training, and coordination with banking and non-banking sectors to assist institutions in implementing and maintaining effective STR regimes. The Bahamas should further enhance its AML/CFT regime by criminalizing bulk cash smuggling; continuing implementation of the National Strategy on the Prevention of Money Laundering; ensuring full compliance with UNSCRs 1267 and 1373; establishing a currency transaction reporting system; and, implementing a system to collect and analyze information on the cross-border transportation of currency. It also should ensure there is a public registry of the beneficial owners of all entities licensed in its offshore financial center.