Caribbean Financial Action Task Force blacklists Belize; is banking sector in jeopardy
As you know by now, the European Union has blacklisted Belize for not doing enough to curb illegal fishing. That is bad, but even worse is the news of the blacklisting by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, which describes Belize as one of the countries that have not complied with addressing deficiencies in the laws on money laundering and offshore banking. That decision is giving Belize an even bigger black eye because it has serious ramifications for banking. According to C.F.A.T.F., even though Belize has taken some steps, it has not gone far enough to improve the Anti-money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism recommendations. The C.F.A.T.F. decision is bad news because it threatens the commercial banking sector. While the Prime Minister admits that sector can collapse, he lashed out at Wednesday’s press conference.
Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
“The big countries are hypocrites. They don’t practice what they preach. They tell you what you have to do, they talk about harmful tax completion, they talk about his, and they talk about that. They talk about knock off counterfeit gods, weh the place name da New York, Canal Street, China Town? The point is, in passing the legislation that we did, we had to try to stare a careful course. We recognize that these big countries and there proxies, their agencies are powerful and can collapse our system. We can complain, we can denounce them but the fact is that ultimately we have to recognize where the power lied. On the other hand, we have people in the financial services sector; we have people in the offshore sector, who have been saying to us, if you go as far as these people are demanding, you are going to shutdown the industry. So it’s a huge balancing act that’s required. Ultimately I have said to the local people, please, we will try as best we can to protect you as much as we are able. But in the end recognize that the jig will soon be up. It may be unfair but these people won’t stop until they kill off our offshore sector. Bottom-line, we have I believe another six months, they’ve made the statement against us but they have not blacklisted us.”
The draftsperson, who operates as legal counsel to the Ministry of Finance, has been tasked with producing additional legislation by February. C.F.A.T.F. will be meeting in February and the government intends to be in compliance by then.