UK wants direct access to Cayman company info

| 27/11/2015 | 2 Comments
CNS Business

Premier Alden McLaughlin (left) and BOT Minister Duddridge

(CNS): The UK’s overseas territories minister has told the Cayman Islands premier that the British government wants direct access to companies registered here for all of their law enforcement agencies, but the Cayman leader has so far refused. As the dispute between the UK and its territories continues, the return of James Duddridge to the OT desk at the Foreign Office has seen a renewal of demands by the mother country, dashing hopes raised by the acting minister, Grant Shapps, that access to beneficial ownership could be fulfilled via other means.

In a statement to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday ahead of his departure to London Friday evening for the annual Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) meeting, Premier Alden McLaughlin said beneficial ownership was not on this year’s agenda but there would be discussions with Duddridge in separate talks.

The premier said that Duddridge had told him by phone that the UK was now seeking direct access by its law enforcement agencies to beneficial ownership information in the Cayman Islands and other overseas territories. “I have advised him that this is not something to which the Cayman Islands can agree,” McLaughlin said.

“The information concerned does not belong to the Cayman Islands government. It is property of the owners of the respective legal entities,” he added. “As far as we are aware, there is no country in the world that allows unrestricted access to beneficial ownership information by the law enforcement agencies of another country.”

McLaughlin pointed to the established mechanisms to allow requests for information to be made to the relevant authorities in Cayman by overseas law enforcement agencies, tax and regulatory authorities.

“The information collected and shared through these mechanisms is, importantly, information which we have cross checked and verified – we do not simply rely on an honour system. These mechanisms were approved by the UK and have been assessed to be in accordance with globally accepted standards. They are working well and our position is that they should continue to be the means by which the UK and other countries obtain information on beneficial ownership of legal entities in the Cayman Islands,” he said.

Concerned that anything else would place Cayman Islands at a competitive disadvantage, he said the jurisdiction was already complying with international standards, particularly as it relates to transparency and beneficial ownership information.

“We have demonstrated this full commitment in a number of meaningful ways, such as being an early adopter to the Convention on Mutual Tax Assistance and leaders in the implementation of US and UK FATCA as recent examples. However, what we are not prepared to do is to adopt a scheme which our competitors, some of whom are G20 member states, do not subscribe to, put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage and thereby cause our business to migrate to competitor jurisdictions.”

He said Cayman would not agree to a public register until it becomes the global standard and requests for information from law enforcement agencies must continue to be dealt with by the established means, in accordance with global standards.

“Cayman’s position on beneficial ownership information has not changed. We will uphold our commitments to globally acceptable standards,” the premier told the LA. “This is the message I have already delivered to Mr Duddridge and which I intend to reiterate when we meet in London,” he added, as he asked for their support to achieve the best position for Cayman on beneficial ownership.

The matter is a particularly thorny one for the financial sector and there are concerns that industry players could take flight over the introduction of direct access or a public register. The industry is keen to see that access to their clients’ information goes through controlled channels.

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Category: Finance, Financial Services

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If this is what they want, why don't they just do it? They are in charge...

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Looking at the picture it is apparent that Dart has approved the meeting and gets top billing. Do we need more proof about who makes the decisions?

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