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Mar 9, 2016

Free Zone Cigarette Traders on the Hot Seat

Dean Barrow

Atlantic Bank International has reportedly met with cigarette traders operating out of the Free Zone and has informed them that effective March fifteenth, their accounts will be closed. It’s a situation we’ve been following closely because observers say that the Free Zone is failing and the movement of cigarettes is one of the few things keeping it afloat. That may be so, or not, but what is certain is that the alleged illicit actions of some of those same traders is what has caused the bank to take notice, and take action. Following the House meeting on Tuesday PM Barrow told News Five that what is happening is regrettable, but certainly not surprising.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“In a sense while we regret the slowing down of any economic activity, we are all aware of the allegations, the charges that have been made, in terms of contrabanding and the illegal export of the cigarettes to Mexico and the illegal importation of what is supposed to be coming from let’s say from China…but according to various sources, knockoffs of the big boy. And it is hard for me to say how much of what is complained of is true. It is perfectly understandable though that the banks will say look we are not going to bank anybody who is in the cigarette trade. We know what’s happening with the correspondent banking situation. I’ve just seen where the Americans against are talking about…in a way they are punishing us for our geographic location; about being a transshipment point for drugs. No doubt there is an element of truth, but anyway let me leave that aside. In the current climate, it is critical that we do everything to show that we’re trying to make our jurisdiction as simon-pure as possible. And it is not just a matter of government and passing legislation; it is a matter of the banks, the individual commercial banks, having to make sure that nobody with whom they are trying to do correspondent business will be able to say…but your infrastructure is faulty or your business model or some of the people you are banking immediately set off alarm bells to ringing. So I am afraid, with the current environment, it is no doubt unfortunate, but not surprising that they are now refusing to bank the cigarette people.”

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