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Richards: Burt was ‘photo-op attendee’ at international finance conference

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Bob Richards, the former finance minister (File photograph)

A former finance minister has criticised David Burt, the Premier, for not taking the lead role at an international finance conference in Barbados.

Bob Richards, who also served as deputy premier for the One Bermuda Alliance, was highly critical of the Government’s stance at last week’s Caribbean Financial Access Roundtable summit, which he branded a “junket in the sun”.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who hosted the gathering, hit out at what she called a flawed global anti-money laundering (AML) regime that badly impacted Caribbean islands.

Mr Richards said Bermuda needed to flex its muscle as a highly regarded and successful financial hub with a global reputation.

Writing in The Royal Gazette today, Mr Richards stated: “Why aren’t we leading this initiative, instead of being a mere photo-op attendee?

“The strong must speak for the weak and not abrogate its responsibility to weaker island economies who don’t have the credibility on the economic world stage that we do.

“Our Government doesn’t seem to understand this.”

Mr Richards also questioned the attendance of US Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who chairs the House of Representatives’ financial services committee, whom Prime Minister Mottley said had agreed to hold hearings into the matters raised such as banking attitudes to fintech and gaming enterprises.

He said: “What value does committee chair Maxine Waters bring to the table?

“The money center banks that Bermuda banks have correspondent relationships with are regulated by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Comptroller of the Currency.

“While the Financial Services Committee of the US House of Representatives has oversight powers, it does not regulate these banks.

“Their unwillingness to deal with proceeds of gaming and fintech companies is not law or policy handed down from Congress.

Meeting: Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, and David Burt, Premier and Minister of Finance.

“They gladly provide banking for US-based gaming and fintech companies. I doubt if it is an edict by their regulators either.

“It is likely a product of groupthink in Wall Street.

“I just cannot see Ms Waters’ committee using up any political capital to have public hearings to help out a bunch of offshore small islands whose people don’t vote in US elections. But it was a nice junket in the sun.

“The correspondent bank and fintech issue is an impediment for the generation of future business.

“It is not likely to be solved via the Caribbean. In my view, the blacklist issue is far more dangerous.”

Mr Burt told the summit that Bermuda’s regime on combating money-laundering was advanced.

He said: “From the perspective of Bermuda, a country that has incredibly high anti-money laundering ratings, no matter what it is that we do they are always asking for more.

“And there is no question what this is — it is a red line around the Caribbean.

“They take what is the worst aspects of the various islands, apply it to all islands and basically say, ‘We don’t want to deal with you, you are too much risk — we’re small.”

See Opinion for the full article.

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Published April 27, 2022 at 7:52 am (Updated April 27, 2022 at 9:37 am)

Richards: Burt was ‘photo-op attendee’ at international finance conference

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