(CNS): A new deal signed between the UK and the Cayman Islands regarding an enhanced regime to disclose the beneficial owners of offshore companies will not bring an end to the push for a public register, Premier Alden McLaughlin said at a press conference Monday. While he was pleased Cayman had managed to get the UK to accept a non-public platform that allows quicker and easier access for authorised parties, he warned that British Prime Minister David Cameron still wanted a central register and the pressure for more public disclosure would not end.
He said the latest agreement with the UK offered Cayman “a greater sense of confidence” that Britain had endorsed Cayman’s proposals for sharing beneficial ownership with UK agencies, but he did not expect an end to the rhetoric.
“This is a train that has never stopped coming,” he said. “We can’t rest on our laurels as we have to constantly bear in mind that standards will evolve and political pressures will continue.”
Announcing the signing of the new deal outlining how Cayman will provide more accurate information to law enforcement and tax authorities in the UK more quickly, the premier stressed that the agreement was an illustration that Cayman was getting things right and the new regime was essentially business as usual for local companies, regardless of the agreements on new protocols and quicker disclosure.
McLaughlin said it had been a long and difficult discussion to agree on a framework and that it had taken the law enforcement and other relevant agencies in the UK some time to understand how the system for beneficial ownership information worked in Cayman. However, eventually they began to realise that Cayman already had the information they would want and the regime, with a little enhancement, would meet the global standard.
Aware that the calls for a public register are not going to go away, McLaughlin said that for the time being, te UK had accepted that Cayman has a robust information exchange regime in place. Cayman would meet international standards, he said, but the government had been clear from the start that it would not agree to implement measures that were not adopted everywhere and risk undermining the financial services industry.
“Whatever the global standard is, Cayman will be there but we will not be placed in a position where we become less competitive. This is a point we have made over and often,” he added.
Even with the fallout from the Panama Papers leak, the increasing pressure and world attention on all offshore jurisdictions, McLaughlin remained confident that Cayman’s offshore sector would weather the storm and the challenges presented by the perceptions people have of this jurisdiction and other offshore financial centres.
“People don’t do business with us because we are nice,” McLaughlin noted, as he pointed to the value added by using the Cayman Islands for international financial transactions. “We are a key cog in global finance and business. If we continue to provide high standards, high quality services, observe global standards and remain on the vanguard of anti-corruption and crime, I have no doubt we will retain the position as a global leader.”
As part of a clampdown on tax avoidance, the UK is preparing to create a new agency and crime fighting regime to deal with institutions helping people to evade tax. Nevertheless, McLaughlin was confident that Cayman would deal with any adverse discoveries.
He said he could not predict what might happen in the future and if the Panama Papers or the new enhanced exchange of information led to the exposure of financial crime here, then it would be dealt with through the proper channels in the usual way.
“We do not want business here which is tainted. We do not want to engage with clients seeking to break laws,” the premier said, adding that Cayman would be happy to see any bad business that is here go elsewhere.