Tourism minister Jamahl Simmons has dismissed allegations that he said implied he had lied to the House of Assembly about the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission’s compliance with its responsibilities.
Mr Simmons took to his feet in the House of Assembly yesterday to provide a “personal explanation” to a report in The Royal Gazette on February 2. He maintained that the Government stood by its reasoning for making changes of leadership at the commission and that “the positive results of that change are clearly being demonstrated”.
Mr Simmons added that responsibility for managing and regulating betting shops would soon be transferred to the commission and that under the commission’s new leadership, it was anticipated that all gaming would eventually be regulated and supervised by the body.
In the newspaper article the commission’s former executive director Richard Schuetz criticised Mr Simmons’s justification for taking control of the commission in the wake of a public access to information disclosure.
On November 10, last year Mr Simmons told Parliament that the commission had failed to participate in a national risk analysis carried out by the National Anti-Money-Laundering Committee in the run-up to an assessment this year by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force.
Information released in response to a Pati request showed the Commission had no statutory duty to complete assignments for the NAMLC or participate in its meetings until November 3, which led Mr Schuetz to question how the commission could be said to have failed in the space of a week.
He said the Pati disclosure showed “the minister needed to justify his actions and he grabbed at this”.
But Mr Simmons hit back at the accusations and said that the claims required a “full and vigorous rebuttal”.
He said: “These are the facts — the tracking document was a requirement imposed by Cabinet, through the National Anti-Money-Laundering Committee, on all identified agencies involved in AML matters.
“It was not just imposed on official members of NAMLC.
“As an example, the Anti-Money-Laundering/Financial Action Task Force Board which regulates lawyers and accountants is required to submit and be subject to other NAMLC imposed deadlines, but they are not and will not be a NAMLC agency as they are a self-regulating organisation.”
Mr Simmons told MPs that it was therefore not explicit membership of NAMLC that imposed the requirements but the authority given to NAMLC by Cabinet.
He added: “Although the legislative provision listing the Commission as a member of NAMLC was not brought into force until November 2017, the legislation allowed the Minister of Legal Affairs to make appointments to NAMLC without them formally being listed in the legislation.
“The former minister, who was responsible for NAMLC appointments at the time, agreed in 2016 that the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission should participate as a member of NAMLC.
“Casinos are required to be in scope by FATF under the AML framework. In the Bermuda context, this was done and casinos were brought into scope more than 18 months ago.
“By virtue of the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2015, the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission was indeed added to the list of Supervisory Authorities in the Proceeds of Crime Act 1997.
“Therefore, again the commission already had legislated obligations under the regime, long before 2017. Under new leadership the tracking document that was not completed under prior leadership has been completed.“