BBC documentary set to scandalize Cayman

| 19/01/2016 | 74 Comments
Jacques Peretti

Jacques Peretti

(CNS Business): A new BBC documentary on the Cayman Islands due to air in the UK on Friday is likely to scandalize the jurisdiction once again. Despite efforts  by the Cayman Islands to shake off the tax haven label, the programme by Jacques Peretti will be focusing on the UK territory as a “notorious tax haven” and what this jurisdiction means to Britain. In an article for The Guardian on Monday about what he learned while he was here making the programme, Peretti wrote that, besides the high cost of a packet of fish fingers (a staple part of the British diet) he discovered that not everyone here is rich.

Perretti spoke with Premier Alden McLaughlin and Cayman Finance CEO Jude Scott during his time here and was shown some of the high-end properties by local real estate agent Michael Joseph, who took him on a tour in his boat.

Although the BBC promotion for the show talks about Peretti meeting the expats, playboys and politicians, Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton said the BBC film maker did not speak with him or anyone in his ministry.

However, Peretti did meet with at least one person who was not a millionaire. “I was shown around in speedboats and Ferraris. But many on Cayman live in poverty,” he said after speaking to a retired civil servant living in a house full of damp and mould whose home was being repossessed.

Jacques Peretti is an investigative reporter, broadcaster and filmmaker based in London, who has made a number of documentaries on the UK’s super rich.

BBC: Britain’s Trillion Pound Island – Inside Cayman

Guardian article: The Cayman Islands – home to 100,000 companies and the £8.50 packet of fish fingers

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Category: Finance, Financial Services

Comments (74)

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  1. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance says:

    It looks very much like J.Peretti arrived with a pre set agenda….and produced a low quality budget short film designed to support some old fashioned prejudices.
    There are plenty (Yes…PLENTY) of taxes in the Cayman Islands for people who live here. It’s just that it’s not income tax or Capital Gain Tax which requires a secret police force to run. Taxes in the Caymans pretty much depend on how you live…..and can be pretty high…..or low depending on what you do and where you live.
    A tax haven it is not…….only a tax free state for income tax, CGT and Inheritance Tax….but not tax free for living day to day. Most countries cannot balance the budget with all the taxes you can imagine mostly because they’re totally inefficient and the wastage of tax payers money is unbelieveable.

  2. Cor Blimey Guv says:

    Journalist trying to make himself famous with a cheap shot at Islands that are small and do not have the big boy voice to defend themselves. Anyone living here knows that “tax free” is a complete misnomer. We pay tax pretty much on anything we consume, whether it is an import tax or a shipping cost “tax” as we have little of our own product. So for the people, no it is definitely not tax free at all.

    For corporations, yes there have been those that abused the tax status here, funnily enough US or UK or EU or Far Eastern organisations, however from where I sit our regulation in Financial services is getting tougher and tougher each day. Cayman was one of the first to sign up for BEPS (Base Erosion Profit Shifting) legislation.

    When all is said and done, Enron, Parmalat, Madof, the last financial crisis did not start in Cayman. The crisis started in the UK and US, and those involved, ladies and gentlemen, were the biggest criminals in the world who got off scott free. The only reason this story even makes news is to divert attention from the fact that other governments have to tax everyone through the nose to recover the money they spent propping up their economies in the slump that their own financial institutions and stupidity caused. Should companies pay tax where they earn there money? Of course! Is it their problem that until recently companies, not breaking any laws, were able to declare earnings elsewhere? No. Cayman has been doing its bit for a while. Now UK etc stop pointing fingers and clean up your own acts. And yes, I am a Brit.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Was this supposed to be a comedy because the reporting was just one big joke.

    • Anonymous says:

      Couldn’t agree more. It was almost funny except that it was presented as investigative journalism which worries me. I had messages from family and friends in the UK saying “I saw the antics you and your cronies in Cayman”. The program made me feel like a criminal when I know I am not doing anything wrong.

  4. decreasinghope says:

    I have spent a week or two working in the Cayman’s every year since 2006. This is a totally skewed program. It an’t perfect but the presenter had an agenda as big as the chip on his shoulder. Plus an overdose of smugness.

  5. Jack Irvine says:

    Experienced local such as Marcus Cumber and Michael Joseph should have known better than to cooperate with this hatchet job. One can only surmise their egos got in the way of common sense and sound business judgment.

    However it was the Governor’s performance that was deeply embarrassing. This lady, who has had no experience in the world of diplomacy, displayed a chronic lack of understanding of the role Cayman plays in the global financial sysyem. On top of that she badly let down her British paymasters.

    This programme was a PR disaster and has set back Cayman’s image for years after strenuous efforts by successive governments to improve it.

    • Anonymous says:

      If I were an investor sitting in the UK watching Michael and Marcus, even with attempts by the show to spin them in a narcissistic way, I would be on the next plane out here looking for a place in the sun. From that perspective, they did a good job.

    • Anonymous says:

      Generally agree, but Michael Joseph did a good job of dodging the biased questions.

  6. Anonymous says:


    Thanks for the laugh. Congratulations, you are the first piss artist I have come across in 2016. Love the the reference to “a James Bond island” I awoke to. Based on that I changed channel on my telly immediately Good luck with your future “Fantasy Island” type efforts.

    All the very best,

    Ian Flemming:

  7. Alex says:

    To all those who bemoan zero tax rating on exempted companies established in the Cayman Islands or similar “tax havens”, check whether your pension planning or investments include any kind of collective investment scheme (like an insurance company scheme or hedge fund). Then consider whether you would like tax to be collected both on the aggregating collective investment vehicle when it performs well with your investment AND in your pocket when you receive the proceeds of your investments. If you DO want to be taxed twice, by all means complain. If you only think it is fair that you are taxed when YOU actually receive proceeds of your investments in these collective investment schemes, then you have identified at least one reason why “tax havens” have merit for investors globally.

    • Anonymous says:

      Any “country” that has a special favourable regime for companies incorporated there that specifically do not do business in that place is an evil parasite.

      • Anonymous says:

        And what do we call you, the parasite that lives and feeds off the ‘parasite’? Something being that’s less than a parasite?

      • Anonymous says:

        gee i guess its good to be in the same classification as england and the usa.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Having watched this show, it was very weak and had almost no content. Alden came across badly It was incredibly superficial and was more an attack on the UK government’s taxation and welfare policies.

    • Anonymous says:

      Watched it and got angry, fat expat woman in supermarket and narcissists with ferraris don’t represent my Island.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not “your” island. It is Britain’s island.

        • Anonymous says:

          Wrong. We are the English Crown’s Islands following the Treaty of Madrid. We are not and never have been Britain’s. How can a geographic area belong to a geographic area?

          • Anonymous says:

            The Cayman constitution is a British Order in Council. That should be a clue as to why you are talking crap.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Looking forward to watching this. VPNs are like little wormholes to a part of the universe that has culture.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Victoria James bbc

  11. I Love Cayman says:

    No worries. It’s on BBC2….! Say no more….

  12. Anonymous says:

    I feel totally ashamed to call my self British and i feel the BBC are a joke and need to look at their own company before trying to damage someone or somthing else. The Caymans are self governing and have never paid tax. What is they problem with that. Look at the City of London

  13. Anonymous says:

    Upon arrival no English person will buy fish fingers from the store when they can get fresh fish from any of the local fisherman or from the fresh fish section in the supermarket.

    Why eat substandard imported food that’s been preserved and processed when you can get fresh food?

  14. PerceptionIsReality says:

    My question is this: Where were the ministers for information, communication and home affairs for Cayman on this? Where was the head of the DOT? These are the first line of defense and need to be aggressively shaping and managing the news/PR outreach of Cayman on a daily basis. Either you’re generating the news, or you become a victim of it. In this case, the hitman came ashore to open arms with everyone giving him plenty of ammo and a pat on the back. Sad.

    • Joey Smith says:

      The Premier kindly met with him as a BBC reporter but in future should attend the meeting with the Minister for finance and others that can give complete answers to technical questions about tax and offshore finance – but of course they probably would have edited them out anyway. Its easy to see why Government closes up and does not give interviews when they learn that no matter what they say it will be edited and crafted to make them look bad.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Don’t let this pile of rubbish get you upset. As far back as I can remember they have been talking rubbish like this, we are still here.jealously is a bitch.. Why he ran aroind the shops looking for fish and chips,? I dint even think the English expats still eat that. He should have tried a plate of the good, old turtle stew, but then again on second thought, we probably would not be able to get rid of him after that. Not to worry just rumbling in the wind.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I was rather surprise by JP’s article claiming that fish fingers cost Pound 8.50 and this represents why indirect taxation is so hard on the poor in The Cayman Islands. A quick check on the prices in Fosters show that Waitrose Essential fingers all the way from England cost $6.60 (about pound 5.00) for 10 and a US brand costs about $10 (about pound 8.00 for 44 fingers). I then looked up the Customs duty levied on fish fingers to find that it is actually 0%. Lets be clear the cost of living is high in Cayman and there is real poverty and we need to be doing more to support the poor. It is also clear that purchase tax and duties do hit the poor hardest but the cost of living is high here because it is a tiny island that has to import nearly all its food and other goods. It may also be a revelation that fish fingers are not that popular and when I asked several people when they last ate fish fingers, most had never heard of them. So JP’s article, although making some valid points is very poorly researched and looses its validity because of this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Duty on fish is 0%. Duty on processed fish, i.e. Fingers, is 22%… FYI…. But point taken otherwise…

  17. Anonymous says:

    Bloody *&^%#%! Just wants to criticize everything and everybody for a buck! I’m sadden sometimes to call myself a citizen of a British Crown Colony because we get very little backing at all in this respect! Wonder where he has all his money? Report that!

  18. Anonymous says:

    How dumb does someone have to be exactly to not know that poverty exists in every corner of the globe??? Yes, numbnuts it exists even in the jolly old UK!!

  19. Mother May I says:

    The comments at the Guardian article on this upcoming documentary are funny, sad and downright misinformation reading.

    But the one below stood out, too bad most wouldn’t bother to read and learn something. I’ve pasted as written:

    “More slanted reporting. Sigh. Having spent some time in the Islands, let me correct a few of the assertions made by the author.

    The author conveniently fails to note that the Cayman Islands, the largest of which is about 30 miles long, were an impoverished, mosquito ridden British holding until the 1960s, with a subsistence economy centered on fishing and very very low level agriculture. The islands were so poor and undeveloped there are historical records of cattle being suffocated by swarms of mosquitoes in the 1930s.

    Cayman’s tax incentives have not created inequality as the author so boldly suggests. In fact, they have enabled a rural, subsistence farming and fishing community to evolve into a prosperous, civilized society over the course of 50 years. Is everybody a millionaire? No, of course not. Are people’s lives significantly better due to the capital inflows into the country? Absolutely.

    The reason why groceries are expensive in Cayman, is because 99% of them are imported from the UK or the US, by refrigerated tankers which unsurprisingly cost a lot.

    Furthermore, local businesses have to defray other costs such as electricity, which is shockingly expensive due to the Islands’ geographic isolation and to their reliance on diesel generation which is quite expensive to run. The Cayman government does charge 22% duty on imported items, but that is no different from Canada and other countries around the world.

    Cayman offers tax incentives to the companies setting up there, because although it does not collect income tax, it does charge very hefty annual registration and licensing fees to each of these companies, which enable it to collect sufficient funds to provide high quality services to Caymanians.

    It is worth noting that expats do not qualify for free government services, whereas Caymanians do. Essentially the government collects large amounts of money in corporate fees from local and foreign companies, and then funnels said funds into services for its population.

    Cayman labor legislation provides that all corporations operating in the islands must employ a given quota of Caymanian citizens and have local directors. Moreover, the fact that Cayman is a financial center has attracted many large European and American law and accounting firms to the Islands, thus giving the locals access to well paid positions in sectors which were pretty much non-existent prior to the 1960s.

    Caymanian legislation further provides that all locally focused businesses, must be majority owned by Caymanian citizens. Expats may set up businesses that don’t cater to the local economy, such as internet based retail companies, but cannot compete against local business interests.

    Lastly, since Cayman is in fact a British Overseas Territory, the islands have full disclosure agreements with the UK and the US, on all taxation matters. Since the UK has passed its very own version of FATCA, British citizens living in Cayman are required to report their income to UK tax authorities, just as American citizens and companies are required to report to the IRS.
    The Islands are signatories on information sharing agreements with the EU, the US and Canada, on all financial matters. The disclosures required to open a simple checking account in the Cayman Islands, far surpass any level of KYC/ disclosures required in the US or Canada.

    And yes, a large part of its notoriety is driven by Hollywood using “the Caymans” (which is incidentally a misnomer) as an example of a lawless financial “free for all”, secrecy shrouded, tax dodging haven. Whereas reality is quite different.

    The Islands offer certain tax incentives, in a transparent way, because with a tiny territory, and geographic isolation they have no other edge to incentivize business and job creation. All else equal, international companies would prefer to be in Europe or the US, where they have access to better infrastructure, a larger labor pool, etc.

    Despite the author’s bemoaning of the “inequality” of the Islands, the fact that Cayman has attracted foreign capital, has been a huge boon to the local economy which has transformed it from an isolated subsistence farming and fishing community, into a thriving financial center with economic opportunities and well funded government services for its citizens.

    But hey don’t let facts get into the way of a “class warfare” story.”

    • Anonymous says:

      So the gist of all this is that Caymans have decided rather than developing other limbs of an economy, it acts as a parasite offering tax incentives for corporations at considerable cost, that cost being outweighed by the tax avoidance which the Caymans facilitates at the expense of onshore revenue collection. And why is “the Caymans” a misnomer? As has been pointed out below it is a term that can be legitimately used. It may not be the preferred term of some of the local population, but that does not make it a misnomer.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah ‘Caymans’ isn’t an acceptable term. It’s just not! The UK and US both have similar ‘tax haven’ strategies to Cayman but as larger more powerful countries they have the edge on being tax havens. It is not a secret that they have not been pressured to put in place due diligence requirements that are legitimately needed to prevent global crime. So ultimately they are far more alluring as a secretive jurisdiction to hide money whilst not paying or declaring taxes.

  20. PPm $ lauderer says:

    But Alden and Michael told me he was a Investor?? What d friggin hell is Dis????

  21. Anonymous says:

    lets not forget that the UK and the US are also tax havens. Judging by the protestors that set up tents to protest Wall Street not so long ago, I would say they too must be suspect.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Mark my words,Jacques Peretti will be on a work permit in the Cayman Islands before the end of the year.
    HE HAS DISCOVERED PARADISE he will be back.?

  23. Anonymous says:

    I have millions of dollars here in the Cayman and I still struggle.All my money goes to herb,rizzla and pizza pockets, pop tarts, lighters, Doritos, honey buns, Bootleg karate movies,PS4 downloads and Wi-Fi. My Mortgage has never been paid in the 4yrs I’ve been at my residence and somehow I’m still here. I Strongly Believe someone at CUC has a crush on me because I can never pay electricity either. Someone mentioned something to me about a water bill yesterday as well. I was like WTF is that. silly people. By the way if anyone has seen a 700lb Siberian tiger in the vicinity of west bay please notify the cops and they will call me. He answers to the Name BOBO or Please dear god save me.

    • Anonymous says:

      To 8:26am 20/1 Perhaps you should not have abandoned the fish and chips life to move here.

  24. Anonymous says:

    If you read the UK article you’ll notice that even though they do want to scandalize Cayman the actual report isn’t that bad. Its a pity they approach these things with spin in mind, rather than balance. The world would be better for balanced reporting/debate on some of these tax avoidance issues. Instead we have unproductively competing agendas.

    • Anonymous says:

      With the Guardian & the BBC involved ( two institutions dearly loved by the UK liberal/socialistic luvvies), I very much doubt we’ll see anything like balanced reporting.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I chuckled when I read this. Duh — the Bible says the poor we have always with us. I expect another hatchet job designed to tarnish the competitor. In any event, one could hardly expect a well rounded understanding from a fly by.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Well they tried with MCKeeva to tarnish our reputation..I guess now may bottles of champagne will be popping across the UK.

    • Anonymous says:

      MacKeeva did a pretty good job of tarnishing our reputation all by himself, he didn’t need any help from any outsider.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Why the hell we don’t make our own documentary to show the best side of Cayman is beyond me. We never push back on this scandal mongering shit. Which is why they do it.

  28. Anonymous says:

    What an imbecile, there are poor people everywhere! Wonder I’d he knows they are in England as well.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The culture of envy strikes again…Let them eat fruitcake.

    • Anonymous says:

      We’re not sharing our fruitcake. They can have the nasty American fruitcake but Cayman fruitcake is like Turtle Meat ” good to the last drop”.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Victoria James and Jacques Peretti pitched the outcome of their “exposé” to the BBC long before boarding their flight to the Cayman Islands. There is only ever one way these interviews will be cut, and the obliging Alden, Jude, and Michael should by now know the game. Socialist TV viewers never want to hear about the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Common Reporting Standards, or that tax-neutrality does not equate to zero tax. These facts are not as entertaining as the villainous douche-bag trappings of self-proclaimed playboys and unrelated FIFA scandal.

  31. Anonymous says:

    not sure why this would be a scandal, but will have to wait and see. We would be the only country in the world without poor persons. If you go to England I am sure that you will find extreme wealth and extreme poverty amongst their own. In California they have tent cities with extreme poor right outside where the wealthy and privileged live and work. Sadly it is true that we have many who have fallen on hard times. I am Caymanian and my family here have only known very modest means for many generations. I have worked hard, received an education (as has most of my Cayman family) but I was fortunate enough to advance and share in some of the success that Cayman has had. There were many in Cayman that back in the day of the economic boom moved from job to job and only attracted higher salaries and did well, until reality set in and the global market changed. We are now like the rest of the world. Actually I stand corrected, in many cases better off than most, with warts and all. Still much to give God thanks for.

  32. Anonymous says:


  33. Anonymous says:

    Denying the Caymans are a tax haven is ridiculous.

    • SSM345 says:

      Where are the “Caymans” exactly? You should check out London pal, they are No.2, right behind Delaware as the world leaders in tax evasion.

      • Anonymous says:

        The Caymans are in the Caribbean Sea and comprise of Grand Cayman and the Lesser Caymans. The term “Caymans” is perfectly correct.

        • Anonymous says:

          Odd to see people giving the “thumbs down” to an accurate statement of fact.

          • Anonymous says:

            It because it’s the Cayman Islands, not the Caymans, Caiman’s are small crocodiles, pronounced the same as your ‘Caymans’. It is akin to calling the British Isles as The Isles, sorry not an exact comparison, but a slang that’s not generally used, whether or not it’s technically the correct use of English belies the fact no-one uses it, except those that don’t know any better to not use it.

            • Anonymous says:

              No, you are plain wrong there. The Bahamas, Grand Bahamas and other islands. The Turks and Caicos, Grand Turk and other islands. The Caymans, Grand Cayman and the Lesser Caymans. I have a map on my wall, on that map is the Caymans and the Lesser Caymans. You are trying to impose some modern revisionism that all spawned from the awful PC term “the Sister Islands”.

              • Anonymous says:

                The locql people call them the cayman islands. Expats or those that have recieved papers call them caymans. And dimwit what do you call the US Virgin Islands Virgins?

            • Anonymous says:

              Since “the British Isles” is a geographical term that also includes the Republic of Ireland, it would be inaccurate to use it in reference to the political entity that is the United Kingdom. And that’s “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ” to you, not “the UK”.

        • Anonymous says:

          No, it isn’t. It’s Cayman Islands and it’s Sister Islands not Lesser Caymans.

  34. Anonymous says:

    The Caymans are a notorious tax haven. All they do is offer ways for people to avoid paying tax in real time.

    • Anonymous says:

      The decades of overly-complex tax code are created elsewhere. The Cayman Islands had no input or oversight on that.

      • Anonymous says:

        That is pretty much the same argument someone accused of rape runs when they say the woman dressed provocatively.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not really, all Cayman does, or doesn’t do, is add another layer of tax to transactions. Governments can write whatever tax code they want and could shut down all company beneficial tax treatment, but that would probably hurt their domestic market more, and drive businesses out of business. If they do that then there’s no tax, or jobs or income.

    • Anonymous says:

      What constitutes a “Tax haven” is all in the eye of the beholder. When the UK recently reduced corporation tax “to increase investment and stimulate the economy”, the Japanese government had to rapidly change the laws that defined what a tax haven was, in order to avoid the political embarrassment of officially labelling the UK as a (corporate) tax haven.

  35. Anonymous says:

    When will someone actually make a film about the “real truth” of Cayman. Instead of trying to polish up the perceived image these islands seem to display to the world.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Time to get rid of our dishonest financial industry.

  37. Anonymous says:

    We should send a reporter there to show just how much of a dirty cesspool the UK has become, as it rips off its people into oblivion via taxes for trash healthcare, no opportunity which is why they come to Cayman, as their politicians sink their country as they take in more middle eastern immigrants. Can’t wait to meet this “Reporter”

  38. MI7 in Paradise says:

    All part of the U.K. Conspiracy to destabilize and destroy the Caymans

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