The narrative that the Cayman Islands and other offshore jurisdictions are to blame for the world’s corruption, financial crime and tax evasion is finally changing, Premier Alden McLaughlin and Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton believe. Having openly agreed to sign up to any new mechanisms for exchange of information on beneficial ownership at the UK’s recent anti-corruption summit — once a global standard is agreed by all — they have still not agreed to any kind of public or central register unless and until all of the main players, and especially the US, are also on board.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesdayfollowing their trip to London to attend the summit, McLaughlin and Panton said they believed the story was changing for Cayman, and while the premier’s comments about the hypocrisy of the G20 nations was not well received by NGOs and other advocates of a public register, the press picked up the message that the so-called tax havens are not always the problem in the corruption fight.
Describing last week’s London summit as historic, the premier said Cayman fully supports the ambitions to combat criminality and come up with a new standard for global information exchange.
“Once the United Kingdom provided additional information regarding its initiative, and once certain language was accepted, we agreed to participate in the discussion that would lead to the development of such a mechanism. We gave that confirmation to the United Kingdom days prior to the summit, and we took the opportunity to reconfirm our position during the event itself,” he said.
Panton said he had written to George Osbourne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, about Cayman’s commitment. But the premier made it clear at the press conference that the territory had not agreed to implement a mechanism because there was no mechanism to implement.
“It doesn’t yet exist. Again, what we have agreed to is to participate in the global discussion to develop the mechanism,” he said. McLaughlin highlighted the acceptance at last that Cayman should be at the table when this new mechanism is being developed.
“For the first time, we have a seat at the table to develop the mechanism itself: we are not being strongly asked to implement a mechanism that was developed by others without any input from us,” he said. “While the road has been long and hard, we have achieved a position of respect and good standing in the global arena of financial services.”
The premier said that once a mechanism had been agreed and adopted by all overseas territories, crown dependencies, G20 and OECD countries, Cayman would participate in its global implementation. However, the jurisdiction will be seeking a mechanism that ensures the full confidentiality and security of the data exchanged and subject to appropriate legal gateways, he noted.
Meanwhile, Cayman will press on with its bilateral deal with the UK and, as part of the jurisdiction’s commitment to collaborate in anti-corruption efforts, it remains willing to enter into similar agreements with other countries until a global standard is agreed, McLaughlin added.
He said a multilateral mechanism has the potential to properly position transparency as the best means by which serious crimes are averted or prosecuted, but until that is agreed, Cayman will enter into bilateral agreements to enhance transparency one-to-one.
As well as getting a place at the negotiating table, attending the summit and making Cayman’s case against the global hypocrisy, the premier and the financial services minister pointed to another positive outcome — that perceptions were changing.
“We changed the narrative and the focus,” McLaughlin said, as he answered questions from the local media. He said the focus had shifted to larger metropolitan countries that have been much more secretive than Cayman and as a result, leading UK newspapers printed Cayman’s side of the story. This was a great achievement, the premier suggested, which had rarely happened before and said the Cayman Islands appear to have turned a corner when it came to how the country is perceived globally.
Panton and McLaughlin said that by engaging with the international media around the conference, they had helped to change the narrative. Panton revealed that his ministry was going to continue to take an even more proactive approach to ensure the narrative is accurate.
“We will be telling our story,” Panton added.
via CNS Business