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BIA participates in key FATF Consultative Forum

BIA participates in key FATF Consultative Forum

Mon, Apr 30th 2018, 08:00 PM

The Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA) joined several stakeholders from the private sector and non-profit sectors from across the globe at the recent Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Private Sector Consultative Forum (PSCF) held from April 23 to 24, 2018 at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria.

Emmanuel Komolafe, Chairman of the BIA represented the Bahamas' insurance sector at this high level meeting with members of the private sector on the FATF's initiatives aimed at combating money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism.

The BIA was invited by the FATF via the Office of the Attorney General to participate in this key forum in February 2018. In spite of the costs involved, the general consensus among our members was that in light of the recent discussions on the AML/CFT legislative and regulatory framework for the insurance sector locally, the Bahamas' insurance sector ought to be represented on the global stage. It is our view that it is imperative that we provide feedback and the private sector’s perspective to the world's standard setting body on its AML/CFT efforts and learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions in this regard.

The PSCF is an annual meeting hosted by FATF, where issues affecting the private sector and non-governmental entities subject to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing obligations are discussed. According to the FATF, these meetings allow the multilateral body to better understand how legal requirements are affecting the private sector, and they allow the private sector to raise issues of concern and to offer recommendations on overcoming them.

The 2018 PSCF highlighted the importance of collaboration between the public sector and private sector in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. There was a consensus that industry associations play a pivotal role working in partnership with governments in the dissemination of information, education and the provision of feedback on AML/CFT matters. The BIA intends to continue to fill this role within the Bahamian context.

This year, the Forum focused on Global Priorities for AML/CFT in 2018, the Risk Based Approach for the Life Insurance Sector and Securities Sector, Non-Profit Organizations, the Risk Assessment Process, the Mutual Evaluation Process, Money Transmission/Remittance Businesses, De-Risking, Fintech/Regtech, Digital IDs and Virtual Currency.

There was a specific session focused on updates to the RBA Guidance for the Life Insurance Sector which was issued in 2009. There was a general consensus among participants that the insurance sector poses a low risk for ML/TF within the financial services industry. Additionally, within the already low ML/TF risk insurance sector, the ML/TF risk within the non-life insurance sector is very low when compared with life and investment related insurance products.

The FATF made it unequivocally clear that the scope/focus of the FATF Recommendations as well as Guidance is the life insurance sector and there is no recommendation or plan to extend the scope of the FATF Recommendations to include the non-life insurance sector as a financial institution. Consequently, if there is any reference to the non-life sector in the Guidance, the purpose will only be to raise awareness of potential ML/TF risk in that sector and to extend the scope of the Guidance.

We wish to extend our gratitude to the FATF, CFATF and OAG for the invitation to participate in the PSCF. Based on the feedback received from members of the Drafting Committee for the RBA Guidance for the Life Insurance Sector, we believe The Bahamas made valuable contributions to deliberations at the Forum. The Guidance issued for consultation in June 2018 will be an improved and practical version as a result of deliberations and private sector input during the 2018 PSCF.

The FATF’s RBA Guidance on the Life Insurance Sector is expected to be released for consultation in June 2018 and finalized for adoption in October 2018.

The Bahamas Insurance Association (BIA), formerly known as the Bahamas General Insurance Association (BGIA), is a trade association of 35 insurance companies, brokerages, and agencies licensed by the Insurance Commission of The Bahamas, dealing in all lines of General (property and casualty) and Long Term (life and health) insurance business. Its main purpose is the representation of the interests of the Insurance industry to the Bahamian Government and People, and to other local and international bodies.

Minister Dames: New Bill Needed to Meet Current Communications Technology

Minister Dames: New Bill Needed to Meet Current Communications Technology

Mon, Apr 30th 2018, 06:49 PM

Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames, noted, on April 25, 2018, that the Interception of Communications Act of 1969, applicable to old technologies, was limited to only antiquated forms of communication.

“Therefore, the Interception of Communication Bill 2017 needs to be passed to provide for the legal interception of email and other forms of communication over the internet, and other technological devices,” Minister Dames said, while giving his contribution to the Interception of Communications Bill 2017, in the House of Assembly.

“Without the enactment of this new Bill, law enforcement personnel will not be able to utilise the latest in law enforcement techniques and equipment to match the reach, resources or sophistication of organised criminal groups,” he added. “This will undoubtedly lead to a major regression in all of the gains made by law enforcement in recent times thereby exposing our beautiful nation to untold risks such as economic, reputational, and damage to our social fabric.

“These are risks that we cannot afford to take if we are committed to building a nation that is respected and focused on securing a future for successive generations.”

Minister Dames pointed out that, in a 2013 ABC News online article titled, “NSA: 'Over 50' Terror Plots Foiled by Data Dragnets”, former Director of the National Security Administration, General Keith Alexander, told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that more than 50 potential terrorist attacks on U.S. soil were stopped due to vast swaths of telephone metadata and Internet data collected daily by the NSA since 9/11.

In the same article, Minister Dames continued, former FBI Deputy Director, Sean Joyce, said in his testimony before the Panel that in 2009, using Section 702 authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act granted to intercept communication, federal authorities intercepted an email from a terrorist located in Pakistan who was corresponding with an individual in Denver, Colorado.

The Minister said, acting on the information intercepted through the emails, the authorities identified the suspected terrorist and tracked him to New York City, where they executed search warrants and found bomb-making components. The suspect was arrested and later confessed to a plot to bomb the New York Subway System.

Minister Dames admonished that The Bahamas could not allow any incidents of that nature to occur.

“As a responsible Government, we have an obligation to the people of this nation to enact legislation – such as the one we are debating here today – that will provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to stay ahead of those hell-bent on destroying our nation in the name of greed and selfishness,” he stated. “We cannot and should not send the message to the criminal element that we are not prepared to follow them or match their resources to wherever they go to safeguard our nation’s security interests.”

“This would be a catastrophic error, resulting in devastating consequences for our little nation,” he added. “Are we prepared to surrender or risk it all for those with their hidden agendas? Or are we prepared and committed to protecting, the reputational and national security interests of our nation? The only way we make the latter possible is if we put systems in place to circumvent terrorist activity.”

Minister Dames stressed that he was in no way suggesting that terrorist attacks would ever occur “on our shores”; but what he would like to emphasise was that organised criminals and terrorists, for example, do not have to live or work in The Bahamas to compromise or wreak havoc on the society's way of life.

He noted that the rise of new information communications technologies in the last decade of the 20th century have continued into the 21st century, and The Bahamas, like many countries around the world, has been plagued by cyber crimes related to new technologies.

“The activities of communications technologies is one of the biggest challenges in the 21st century,” Minister Dames said. “Its global impact is felt in every corner of the earth from mega-corporations to everyday citizens. Crimes related to communications technologies at its bare minimum includes damage and destruction of data, stolen money, theft of personal and financial data, embezzlement, fraud, forensic investigation, deletion of hacked data software, and reputational harm.”

Minister Dames said that globally, it was estimated that cyber crimes costs approximately $600 billion dollars annually. He pointed out that it has become the fastest growing trans-national crime that is continuously increasing in scope, sophistication, and cost.

“To date, it is considered more profitable than the global illegal trade of all drugs combined,” Minister Dames said. “Specifically, for The Bahamas, the financial sector being our second major industry means that the threats of financial crimes due to technologies have placed a great burden on our safety and security as we aim to foster an economically safe and competitive industry. By 2020 it is expected that 80 percent of all countries will have cyber-crime policies and it is expected that 30 percent will have Cabinet or government level positions solely focused on cyber-crimes.”

Minister Dames stated that “the time for us to act is now”.

“If we do nothing then we increase the probability of an attack and by the time we come to that realization, ‘that wow, we may have made a mistake and we should have been proactive’, then it is too late,” he said. “As legislators, we must put law enforcement in a positive position to make our people less vulnerable and exposed to risks that emanate from far beyond the shores of The Bahamas.”

By Eric Rose

The Hon. Peter Turnquest, DPM, Minister of Finance on release of 2017 GDP figures for The Bahamas

Mon, Apr 30th 2018, 05:34 PM

As Minister of Finance, I am pleased to see concrete signs of economic recovery based on the 2017 economic data published by the Department of Statistics last week.

The growth in real GDP of 1.4% in 2017 is in line with previous forecasts made by the Government.

I am confident that when the full weight of the Administration’s policies takes hold, we shall continue the momentum of positive economic growth, reversing the chronic economic stagnation that had characterized the previous ten years.

The facts bear out that investor and consumer confidence is finally on the rise once again in The Bahamas.

The 13% growth in gross fixed capital formation is a positive indication that businesses are increasing their investment output and economic impact. The 9% increase in household consumption also confirms signs of the economic recovery.

While this represents a positive start on the road to recovery, it is far too early to declare victory in the transformation of the country’s economic fortune.

We still have much work to do – and tough decisions to make – to get our fiscal house in order and to reverse the persistent deficits and growth in debt that could derail any economic recovery.

We also have to quicken the pace of structural reforms and economic transformation if the Bahamas is to keep pace in an increasingly competitive modern global economy.

As such, the Ministry of Finance will continue to work aggressively to implement the Government’s transformational socio-economic growth agenda that will guide us over the next four years.

Throughout, we will be fully transparent and accountable to the people, and we will provide the good governance that Bahamians rightfully deserve.

Police units to be merged to tackle business crimes

Mon, Apr 30th 2018, 02:00 PM

THE Business Technology and Forfeiture Tracing Units of the Royal Bahamas Police Force will be merged to address increased occurrences of business-related theft, fraud and cyber crime in the country, National Security Minister Marvin Dames has said.

Speaking during the CEO Network Conference on Friday, Mr Dames said the RBPF’s aim is to be proactive and focused in identifying individuals and organisations responsible for various kinds of criminal activity.