(CNS): A last-minute private member’s motion filed in the parliament by two opposition members is calling for some of the Cayman Islands’ major law firms to be prosecuted for breaching the existing Legal Practitioners Law. Government is due to present an updated, but still controversial, piece of legislation to regulate the legal profession at this current meeting of the Legislative Assembly, but Arden McLean and Winston Connolly, both critics of the new law, want the authorities to investigate allegations that Cayman-based firms are breaking the existing law because they control offices outside the jurisdiction, where unqualified people are practicing Cayman law.
The endless controversy surrounding the proposed new law continues, with some attorneys still opposed to the introduction of the latest bill, despite the significant and lengthy consultation. While the Cayman Islands Law Society and the Caymanian Bar Association as well as some articled clerks have offered their backing, an online survey by opposition MLAs of what was said to be 110 lawyers found that 70% did not think the new law was an “immense improvement” for Caymanians in the profession.
The private member’s motion alleges that some firms are intentionally ignoring and deliberately circumventing Section 10 of the existing Legal Practitioners Law with the connection to rogue offices overseas. They also allege that the firms are breaching the immigration law with the promotion and re-designation of lawyers in their firms.
The opposition MLAs claim the firms have admitted that this is happening, and not only is it having a negative impact on the jurisdiction, they are also dodging fees.
“It is clear from their overt actions and public communications that a large number of the partners and principals of the relevant firms are acting in unison and speaking with one voice on this matter, and have invested heavily in trying to pass the necessary legislation to license such practices and operations, without any disclosure of the structure and nature of their various overseas practices and operations, and without offering any form of indemnification to the jurisdiction or recompense to the Cayman Islands economy for any liability or damage thereby caused to date by such practices and operations,” the motion states.
“It appears that a prima facie case could be made out for prosecution under Section 322 of the Penal Code of all partners and principals and other participating persons in these law firms who conspired with one another to defeat the execution of the said laws,” the MLAs have stated.
As well as calling for government to ask the attorney general to investigate and prosecute any offenders, the MLAs are also accusing the current financial services minister, Wayne Panton, who will be hoping to steer the new law through the LA ahead of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) assessment, of being conflicted. The motion states that there is an “alleged glaring conflict of interest” with the minister, who was a former managing partner with one of the major law firms and who they say has produced a flawed bill.
It is not clear when the motion will be debated but CNS understands that it has received approval from the speaker to be included in the business of the final meeting before the parliament is prorogued by the governor ahead of Nomination Day.
CNS has contacted the financial services minister about the motion and we are awaiting a response.