Gov’t under no pressure to change “Secrecy Law”

Financial Services Minister Hon Wayne Panton says it was a policy decision by Government to move up the repeal of Confidential Relationships Preservation Law and replace it with the Confidential Information Disclosure Law.

Mr Panton, speaking at a media conference on Tuesday (17 May) on Cayman’s participation in the UK Anti-Corruption summit in London on 12 May, said government had made the decision some months ago and “well ahead” of the summit to bring the legislation forward.

“We were not under any sort of imperative to make these sort of changes and we thought it was a good opportunity to actually demonstrate that we are addressing issues without the suggestion that we were under pressure to do so,” Mr Panton told reporters at the media conference.

The new law paves the way for legal protection for those disclosing confidential information to legal, regulatory and law enforcement authorities as required under the UK FACTA, US FACTA and the Cayman/UK beneficial ownership agreement. It was gazetted on Wednesday (11 May), the same day the Cayman Islands gave its commitment to join the initiative for the development of a global standard for the automatic sharing of beneficial ownership information.

The accompanying Data Protection legislation, which provides to the right to privacy, will be brought to the LA in September.

Premier McLaughlin, speaking at the media conference, said, the Data Protection legislation, which is on par with legislation in the European Union, acknowledges that privacy is a basic human right.

“In fact, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. As the UK group Liberty puts it, a society that does not pay proper regard to personal privacy is one where dignity, autonomy and trust are fatally undermined. This is different from secrecy, which is characterised by the attempt to hide activity in order to engage in criminal activity. Cayman does not support secrecy; but we certainly respect the right to privacy,” the Premier said.

Mr Panton said it was in the drafting process it was decided government would bring the Confidential Information Disclosure Law “a little forward, but it was not publish it in time to bring it in the next meeting so it will actually be dealt with in the same meeting, around the same time as the Data Protection bill.”

On Tuesday Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin, speaking at the media conference, explained that by this September government will repeal The Confidential Relationships Preservation Law – “which too often was misrepresented as a secrecy law.”

“This will be replaced with The Confidential Information Disclosure Law, which will better clarify the means by which confidential information may be shared with appropriate authorities. And, although bearer shares, which could be used to rapidly change or conceal ownership of a company, have been immobilised in Cayman since April 2000, we’ve passed legislation to completely abolish them by 13 July this year,” the Premier said as he outlined Cayman’s efforts to promote transparency.

On Friday (13 May) HE Governor Helen Kilpatrick assented to the Companies (Amendment) Law 2016 which prohibits the issuance of bearer shares and requires the conversion of existing bearer shares to registered shares before 13 July.

Both Premier McLaughlin and Minister Hon Wayne Panton have assured that legislative changes and government’s commitment to working on the global initiative on the automatic sharing of beneficial ownership information has the support of the financial services industry.

“Cayman Finance and its many industry leading members provided strong support for Government’s position in relation to our discussions with the United Kingdom, and I am happy to say that the Government / Cayman Finance relationship is stronger than ever,” Mr McLaughlin contended on Tuesday.

Mr Panton said the legislative changes represents a series of steps taken by Cayman in seeking to and make sure it addresses some of the edges of comments raised over the years through assessments on this country.

“For many years we have had this issue, this perception which has been created by the Confidential Relationship Preservation Law and we had the 2015 report from the Tax Justice Network report which pointed to that (law), not for to the first time, to suggest that it represented a secrecy law so industry has been working on this and looking at this,” Mr Panton explained.

He said the actual version of the bill was probably done two years ago, but government was simply moving forward with all the little pieces now to ensure that the right image, in addition to the steps that it has taken, is understood “to actually engage internationally on this issue.”

Cayman, he said, decided to take an unapologetic approach because the “Cayman story is a good story and there are many positive things that are to be said and we are saying them now.”

He said the changes in the narrative as it relates to Cayman are clear results of the actions and opportunities government took in the UK and elsewhere to address misconceptions about this country.

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