(CNS): The premier’s office has denied allegations made by Donald Toon, Director Prosperity (Economic Crime and Cyber Crime) of the UK’s National Crime Agency, that the Cayman Islands Government has not been cooperative with the NCA’s investigations. In a BBC report on Saturday, Toon said NCA inquiries had led them to offshore firms registered in Cayman but the agency had been frustrated by authorities here after “asking for information we don’t get”. Toon said that usually when his officers ask overseas territories for help, they “generally get from them clear, unambiguous beneficial ownership information but we are having a difficulty with Cayman”. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also raised concerns about changes made by the government here which are hindering cooperation.
But in a statement from his office, the premier refuted the claims and accused the British crime agency chief of entering into the politics of the beneficial ownership row between Cayman and the UK.
“There is absolutely no merit to Mr Toon’s allegation. His complaint is a gross misrepresentation of a single situation and is no basis on which to accuse the Cayman Islands of being uncooperative,” the premier’s office stated. “This baseless attack on Cayman’s economy and reputation appears to be due to our public criticism of and affirmation to challenge the recent attempt by the UK Parliament to legislate for Cayman and other British Overseas Territories, in areas that are a part of our devolved administration.
“The fact that the UK Parliament in May 2018 imposed an unjustifiable and inequitable requirement on the British Overseas Territories and not the Crown Dependencies is bad enough. Now it appears that in furtherance of that agenda the NCA has entered the political arena against what it has previously described as one of its most cooperative and excellent supporters. We hope we are wrong about this and look forward to the NCA correcting the public record,” the premier added through his office.
But Toon told the BBC that, “the Cayman government is entirely aware of the UK concerns”.
Despite the emphatic denials, the premier’s office did confirm that there was a case in May where a legal issue affected Cayman’s response time to a request.
“That issue was resolved and the information was, in accordance with our commitment to cooperation, provided to the NCA,” the office said, adding that the Cayman Islands would continue to cooperate and support the National Crime Agency and all other law enforcement agencies and tax authorities to combat money laundering, tax evasion and all other forms of crime.
But the FCO also raised concerns and indicated that cooperation was deteriorating.
In a statement released by the governor’s office, the FCO said that since the Cayman Islands Government withdrew from the ‘Exchange of Notes’ agreement after the UK’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act was passed, the local government had stopped the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service from being the authority to deal with beneficial ownership requests.
“Both of these steps make our cooperation on serious organised crime more difficult,” a spokesperson for the FCO stated. “We are working with the Cayman government to resolve these issues constructively, including through discussions between the FCO Minister for the Overseas Territories Lord Ahmad and the premier,” the officials added, indicating that the relationship with the UK appears to be fraying just as the Cayman Islands is seeking to set a date for constitutional talks.
CNS has contacted the National Crime Agency in London for a response to the denials by the CIG and we are awaiting a response.