Cayman lobbies against plans for public register of beneficial ownership

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Officials from the Cayman Islands have been lobbying to oppose plans for the UK to have a public register of beneficial ownership, during a series of meetings it has been attending in London ahead of today’s British Overseas Territories Brexit summit.

Cayman premier Alden McLaughlin and other selected leaders of Britain’s Overseas Territories (BOTs) will meet with UK officials today in a bid to seek a clearer picture of the likely fallout from the UK’s planned exit from the European Union, at a specially convened meeting with the Joint Ministerial Council.

Baroness Anelay, the minister responsible for the BOTs, is set to chair the talks alongside various other UK ministers with responsibility for aspects of the UK’s Brexit negotiations with the EU, to discuss impact on BOTs.

Wayne Panton, Cayman’s financial services minister, who has been in London and Brussels for a series of meetings over the past two weeks and will also be at today’s meeting, revealed that he has taken advantage of the visit to push Cayman position on public registers of beneficial ownership.

Panton said, in an interview with local news outlet Cayman Compass, that Cayman had been lobbying to oppose any calls for a public register of beneficial ownership, during discussions with UK MPs from both the UK Government and the opposition party.

Public registers of beneficial ownership

Panton spoke Cayman Compass via a phone interview from London on Sunday, revealing details of a series of behind-the-scenes discussions held across the last couple of weeks.

Panton said that he met with UK Labour Party MPs attempting to push through an amendment to the UK Corporate Finances Bill, which would impose a public register of beneficial ownership information on the overseas territories. He said he had also successfully lobbied UK Government MPs, persuading them not to support the opposition-led amendment.

“I don’t know if we changed their minds, but we can say that there area areas in which we found common ground and some members on the Conservative side that were in support have now changed their position,” Panton said.

Panton added that Cayman wanted to “make sure that we have the same opportunities in terms of cross border transactions with EU member states as we do now”.

Right to work

Among the concerns expected to be aired at today’s Joint Ministerial Council include the impact on BOTs citizens’ right to work and study in Europe, the likely loss of access to European Union grant funding, and the potential for the split to affect important relationships in the financial services industry, a point particular pertinent to Cayman.

Caymen government held a public consultation exercise to hear the concerns of Cayman Islands residents ahead of the meeting with Panton pointing to “the level of uncertainty” that still exists in Europe, the UK and in the overseas territories as the overriding concern. 

 

One potential political area of concern is the European Union’s stance on low tax jurisdictions.  In an early analysis of the possible impacts of Brexit on Britain’s territories, Cayman Islands law firm Harneys highlighted the looming threat of the EU’s plan to create a “common EU list of problematic tax jurisdictions” by the end of 2017.

“The political element of this is extremely high and the probable absence of the UK.as an influential voice increases the likelihood that this may become an attack on low tax rates,” Harneys wrote in its analysis.

Panton added: “We have come to the conclusion in the last couple of years that we need to take an unapologetic approach and explain Cayman’s legitimate and important role.

‘Old assumptions’

“We have to confront the false narratives and challenge people to review old assumptions and present them with the current reality of the Cayman Islands as a well-run, well-regulated financial centre that plays a significant role in the global economy.”

During the trip that included meetings in London and in Brussels, Panton took part in a panel discussion on corporate taxation at the Centre for European Policy Studies and met with officials including Valere Moutarlier, whose department is responsible for the EU’s proposed blacklist an d Pierre Moscovici, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs and Customs, who in June 2015 announced the names of jurisdictions that the EU considered non-cooperative.

Werner Langen, who chairs the European Parliament committee tasked with investigating the Panama Papers revelations and tax avoidance schemes and Alain Lamassoure, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion also attended according to the Cayman Compass report.

The 14 BOTs

The 14 BOTs are, in alphabetical order, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Antarctic Territory, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the Cayman Islands, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia on Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena and its dependencies (Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The BOTs are different to the UK’s Crown Dependencies, which are classed as possessions of the British Crown, as opposed to BOTs or colonies. Crown Dependencies are the Channel Island bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.

Recently, as reported, Gibraltar’s first minister visited the Joint Ministerial Council in the House of commons to outline the territories concerns and Brexit hopes. Click here, to view a special video interview with Gibraltar’s first minister, conducted prior to the meeting.

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Gary Robinson

Commercial Director, Head of Video at International Investment.

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