Barbados has declared it is ready to fight the European Union “tooth and nail” in court if the blacklisting the bloc imposed is not reviewed, Attorney General Dale Marshall told Parliament on Friday.
Before the House of Assembly Standing Finance Committee, Marshall said: “We are fighting this tooth and nail. We are prepared, if necessary, to litigate the EU stance in various international forums, not just because it has the ability to cripple our financial system but because of the principle which says that you cannot judge and convict a man unless he has the opportunity to be heard.”
Marshall said Bridgetown had asked Brussels for talks last year which still have not happened.
He said: “The EU following one of their pieces of legislation had put Barbados on a blacklist in relation to money laundering.
“Let me say to this Chamber that over a year ago we fought with the EU in relation to naming and shaming jurisdictions.
“We argued with the EU that you can’t name and shame us in a process where there is no opportunity for consultation.
“If the EU has a view that we have fallen short, we should have an opportunity to say to them no we haven’t fallen short this is our state of affairs.
“I saw a correspondence from an EU head which said in the margins of a [Financial Action Task Force] FATF meeting in Antigua our representative mentioned something. How that get to be a consultation with Barbados?”
The AG told the Chamber that the EU’s blacklisting was linked to Barbados not being fully compliant with the FATF.
He said: “Somehow they pre-determined that because we have not graduated from the FAFT system, Barbados represented a high risk.
“They had agreed to consult with us and they have not consulted with us. The EU has had no discussion with the Government of Barbados or its agents.
“They have had no discussion with me as the minister responsible for dealing with money laundering issues but yet still they are pretending that we had these discussions.”
The Minister of Legal Affairs said this was not the first time Barbados was forced to fight a regulatory group. He cited the 1990s when then Prime Minister Owen Arthur was forced to take on the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based clubs of the world’s wealthiest nations.
“Let me remind this Chamber that we passed this way before,” said Marshall. “We passed this way with the OECD in the late 1990s. When the OECD determined that Barbados was a harmful tax jurisdiction and they were going to shut us down.
“Under the leadership of now deceased former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, we had to devote a large amount of Government resources to fight the OECD and we fought them on matters of principle.”
He continued: “It wasn’t just a case of Barbados is a small country you should leave us alone.
“Our argument was that if you are going to make determinations that affect our future and our ability to earn then we have to have a seat at the table.
“At that occasion we established an organisation of small states all of whom had similar interests.”