By Wendy Warren, CEO & Executive Director - Bahamas Financial Services Board
The Bahamas has been an active partner in the global fight against terrorism. It is well known as an international financial center committed to maintaining "the very highest levels of conduct as a clean jurisdiction, complying with the highest standards to prevent the abuse of its financial system by money launderers and criminal elements".
The Bahamas signed the new Organisation of American States (OAS) Convention Against Terrorism in June 2002, and draft anti-terrorism legislation is expected to be tabled in Parliament shortly.
Commonwealth Heads of Government
Earlier in the year, The Bahamas was a signatory to the Coolum Declaration coming out of the 2-5 March 2002 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Coolum, Australia. The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of governments and people of 54 independent countries around the world. At CHOGM 2002, participating Heads of Government (including the Prime Minister of The Bahamas) reiterated absolute condemnation of all acts of terrorism in whatever form or wherever they occur or by whomsoever perpetrated. They reaffirmed their commitment to work together, under the auspices and authority of the United Nations, to take concerted and resolute action to eradicate terrorism.
A Commonwealth Committee on Terrorism is monitoring the implementation of a Plan of Action devised post September 11, and in line with obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. CHOGM's Secretary-General has been tasked with implementing the measures identified by the Committee.
Latin America, The Caribbean and European Union
The Bahamas participated in the May 2002 Madrid Summit of the Heads of State and Government of Latin America, the Caribbean and European Union, from which emerged a "Political Statement" by Heads, undertaking:
- "To combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations - which threatens our democratic systems, liberties and development, as well as international peace and security - in accordance with the UN Charter and with full respect for international law, including human rights and humanitarian law provisions.
- "To strengthen our co-operation to combat the scourges of illicit drugs and related crimes, corruption and organised crime, by enhancing co-ordination mechanisms, combating the sources of funding of drug production and trafficking, and preventing their use in the financing of terrorism and criminal activities world-wide."
Participants committed to strengthen political, legal and operational co-operation mechanisms, and to promote the conclusion of, and adherence to, all international conventions relating to terrorism and the implementation of UN resolutions on the matter.
Financial Action Task Force
Also in May, The Bahamas submitted its self-assessment forms to the FATF as part of a global initiative led by the FATF to ensure world-wide acceptance of its Eight Special Recommendations on Combating Terrorism. These Recommendations set out the key legislative and regulatory steps that countries need to have in place to effectively combat the financing of terrorism.
On September 10 this year, on the eve of the first anniversary of 9/11/01 events in the United States, the FATF reaffirmed its commitment to be a leader in the international fight against the financing of terrorism. Building on its efforts in the past year, the FATF said it will continue to take aggressive steps to prevent, detect and ultimately dry up the flow of funds to terrorists. "Countering the financing of terrorism is a top priority for the FATF", said the new FATF President Jochen Sanio, "and we are calling upon all countries around the world to join us in this effort".
On September 24-25 2002, the Commonwealth Finance Ministers met in London, and took the opportunity to recognise and welcome the firm action being taken by the international community in countering money laundering and the financing of terrorism, and the support being provided by the Secretariat to Commonwealth countries. In particular they welcomed the assistance provided to developing country members to tackle abuses of the international financial system, to meet international standards and to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1390.
Finance Ministers of the Western Hemisphere, meeting in Washington this month, have released an "Action Plan on Combating The Financing of Terrorism". Under the provision dealing with Law Enforcement Actions and Information Sharing, the Ministers agreed that each Western Hemisphere Government should report to each other the list of terrorists whose assets are subject to freezing, the amount of assets frozen, if any, and any other domestic actions taken against terrorists or their surrogates. It also called for the establishment of a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) - or its equivalent - in accordance with Egmont Group standards by October 2003, and for governments to take steps to enhance information sharing with other FIUs. (Note: The Bahamas' FIU came into force with the Financial Intelligence Unit Act of December 29, 2000)
The Executive Order signed by the President of the United States last fall makes it plain that those who underwrite violence bear equal culpability to those who perpetrate it. "Feigned indifference, willful blindness, and the appearance of normalcy and status in the world of business or commerce will no longer provide cover or safe harbor - here or abroad," said US Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill. The United States clearly is serious about shutting down any company or organisation that is in the business of supporting terrorism. Over the last year, it has sought the cooperation of international allies for targeted freezing actions under domestic and international law, and on an ongoing basis has submitted names of designated terrorists to the United Nations for listing by the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee.
Last month on the occasion of designating individuals related to the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), and a separatist faction of the Gruppo Islamico Armato (GIA), simultaneously with Italy, the Secretary of the US Treasury indicated that the particular designations were unique in that it was the direct result of the collaborative and cooperative efforts of not just two, but four nations - the United States, Italy, The Bahamas, and Luxembourg - working together toward a common purpose. "All four of those nations provided financial information, investigative assistance, or key documents or support - which allowed us to make the case necessary for today's designation," he said.
As of September 6, 2002, the United States and other countries had frozen more than $112 million in terrorist-related assets since 9/11/01, with some 236 individuals and entities currently designated as financiers of terror.
The Bahamas Government monitors updates to lists of suspected terrorists, as released by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Swiss Money Laundering Control Office (MLCO) and the European Union.
The Evidence (Proceedings in Other Jurisdictions) Act and the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act regulate cooperation by Bahamian courts in civil and criminal matters. An International Legal Cooperation Unit has been created within the Office of the Attorney General. The Unit is staffed with attorneys specialised in the preparation and presentation in court of all international requests for judicial assistance, freezing and forfeiture of the proceeds of crime.
Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) currently exist with the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.