By Alison Lowe
Nassau Guardian Business Editor
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Representatives of the offshore banking sector in The Bahamas held an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Perry Christie on Wednesday to address the detention of a senior Swiss banking executive by immigration officials, and have called on the government to take a “more sensitive approach” to enforcing the country’s laws so as to avoid harming the industry.
Guardian Business understands that many members of the financial community were shocked by the detention of the senior official, reported to be the executive director of UBS (Bahamas), Emmanuel Fiaux, on Tuesday during a morning immigration enforcement exercise.
Drivers were stopped in the streets and questioned about their identity during the road blocks, with some asked to produce evidence of their immigration status.
Fiaux was reported to have been taken to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre temporarily after he was unable to produce documentation to prove his ability to reside in The Bahamas, although this could not be confirmed up to press time on Wednesday.
Following the detention of Fiaux, bankers who spoke with Guardian Business on condition of anonymity expressed concern that such incidents are “the last thing The Bahamas needs” at a time when the offshore banking sector is already being squeezed competitively by increased and evolving international regulatory demands.
Contacted for comment by Guardian Business, the Association of International Banks and Trust Companies in The Bahamas (AIBT) and the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) issued a joint statement on Wednesday confirming that they had held a meeting yesterday morning with Christie and acting Minister of Immigration Philip Brave Davis, as well as Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder, to “discuss various issues around immigration and labor in light of the recent immigration round-ups that have been widely reported”.
“AIBT and BFSB executives expressed that while the industry understands and respects the government’s ongoing efforts to enforce the country’s immigration laws, the industry believes that it is critically important that a more calibrated and sensitive approach be taken, so as to avoid unnecessary detentions of individuals duly authorized to live and work in The Bahamas.
“It was further stressed that we must work together to ensure that no harm is inflicted on The Bahamas’ reputation as a welcoming nation.
“We look forward to engaging the government in a broader dialogue around issues of labour, immigration and economic development” said the joint statement. “All stakeholders understand fully that access to financial and human capital are vital, and we must explore meaningful reform to existing regulations and procedures which will encourage the long-term growth and development of the nation.”
The statement further noted that all three ministers were receptive to the concerns expressed and reinforced their understanding of the value of the financial services industry to the country. The prime minister invited the executives to a follow-up meeting with the respective portfolio ministers.
The organizations called on their members to contact them with any questions and/or concerns about these matters “so that we can work to provide clarity and support to the industry around these issues”.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian