On 29 December 2000, the Government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas passed a compendium of financial legislation, which included the Financial Intelligence Unit Act 2000 (FIUA) which established the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
At the time of the establishment of the FIU, The Bahamas had been blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as being non-cooperative in the global fight against money laundering. Among the reasons cited by the FATF for its decision was the non-existence of an FIU within The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The FIU is governed by the FIUA and its core functions are to receive, analyse, obtain and disseminate information received in suspicious transaction reports, which relates to or may relate to the proceeds of crime as stipulated in the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA). The FIU is also mandated by law to cooperate with local law enforcement agencies and its international counterparts who are foreign financial intelligence units.
The FIU commenced its work with a total of four employees consisting of a retired Deputy Commissioner of Police as Director, a Detective Assistant Superintendent of Police as Head of Analysis and two Detective Constables as Analysts.
Within the first year of operations the staff compliment had expanded to 16 employees, which included a Legal Counsel, Public Accountant, Information Technology Specialist, Head of Operations, two additional Analysts and Administrative Support staff.
FIU Bahamas became the 54th Member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units at its Plenary, held in The Hague, Netherlands in June 2001 and has been a very active member of the group since that time, participating in the activities of the Egmont Group, including the annual Heads of FIU and Plenary and Working Group Meetings. Members of the FIU have also participated in various Egmont Working Groups, including Outreach, Training, Information Technology, and the Implementation Committee. The membership of the Egmont Group now comprises of FIUs representing 166 countries.
In December 2001, the FIU issued Anti Money Laundering and Suspicious Transactions Guidelines to various sectors of the financial services industry as mandated by the FIUA. These Guidelines were replaced on 19 March 2007, with the FIU’s Suspicious Transaction Guidelines relating to the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.
The FIU has involved itself extensively in working with financial intelligence units in the Caribbean region in providing the requisite assistance for membership in the Egmont Group. The FIU has thus far successfully sponsored eight (8) FIUs from the Caribbean region for membership in the Egmont Group and continues to sponsor others. The FIU partnered with another FIU from the Americas Region in sponsoring an FIU from the African region for membership in the Egmont Group.
FIU Bahamas is also a part of the global financial system that provides oversight and regulation of the financial sector worldwide. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) provides this oversight, along with the FATF Regional Styled Bodies (FRSB) the Caribbean Action Task Force (CFATF). FATF has published 40 Recommendations that countries are required to meet, and these set standards designed to provide a comprehensive plan against money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The Bahamas is one of 25 CFATF States in the Caribbean Basin, Central and South America who work together to implement common countermeasures to address the problems overseen by FATF. CFATF utilises several methods to achieve its objects, including Mutual Evaluations (MEs), which result in the publication of Mutual Evaluation Reports (MERs), and Follow Up Reports (FURs). The Bahamas’ last ME was conducted in November/December 2015, with the subsequent MER being released in July 2017.
As a result of the 2017 MER, FIU Bahamas has made significant changes to its operations, inclusive of overhauling its information technology (IT) infrastructure, the acquisition of software to allow for the electronic submission of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and other reports, a case management database, and analytical software to assist with its analysis of matters.
From an FIU that saw 246 STRs submitted by the end of 2001, the FIU has evolved into an FIU that in 2020 received a total of 648 STRs, 102 Inter-Agency Reports (IARs) from Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), Regulators and Other Government Agencies, and 74 requests from Foreign FIUs (FFIUs) from Egmont members.
The staff compliment now stands at 30, comprising of Analysts, IT staff, and others who help with the fulfilment of its mandate.
As mandated by the FIUA, the FIU has published Annual Reports which each year provide an overview of the work of the FIU.