Nick Shaxson ■ British tax havens fight back against transparency moves

The scorecard: epic fail?

Latest scorecard: epic fail?

Just over a year ago the British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose family has had tax haven interests for many years, tried to whitewash Britain’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies with a statement saying:

“I do not think it is fair any longer to refer to any of the Overseas Territories or Crown Dependencies as tax havens.”

Which, as we pointed out in an identically-introduced blog a couple of weeks ago, was arrant nonsense. We had demonstrated it amply via our Financial Secrecy Index, and that was followed up by a scorecard this month from Global Witness and Christian Aid. The Clean-up has been, to use modern parlance, an Epic Fail.

Well, now, from the Cayman Compass (h/t Tax Research, via Robert Palmer):

“Fighting off last-minute overtures from the United Kingdom on the implementation of a public, centralized beneficial ownership registry for locally registered businesses and potentially trusts, Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said Monday that the British Overseas Territories are standing united against such a move.”

This follows moves in Europe towards creating public registries. And of course there are influential private sector interests at play here:

“Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam said Monday that he also expected the international “pressure” on the beneficial ownership issues to remain for some time, but said the Chamber congratulated Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Panton’s government on their stance.

“We support the government’s position holding the line by not acquiescing to requests for the implementation of a public beneficial ownership registry, which would negatively impact the Cayman Islands and put our jurisdiction at a competitive disadvantage, particularly when none of our competitors or the big countries, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada have committed to such course of action and legislation,” Mr. Moxam said.”

Which is all, of course, rather predictable. And there is the “competitiveness” nonsense, again. What exactly, Mr. Moxam, is Cayman “competing” on here?

Meanwhile, however, we also see blocking moves on these transparency issues from a strange collection of European states. From the EU Observer:

The anti-money laundering directive (AMLD) is entering the final stage of negotiations on Tuesday (16 December) in Brussels in so-called trialogue talks between MEPs, diplomats, and European Commission officials. It’s designed to clamp down on tax evasion and organised crime.

“The European Parliament wants national governments to set up a publicly accessible register on “beneficial ownership”. . . But a leaked compromise text, seen by this website, indicates that a blocking majority of member states is keen to maintain a veil of secrecy.

They don’t oppose creating the register. But they insist on restricting access to “competent authorities”, such as national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).

The commission’s proposal is to restrict access, but to let people who can demonstrate a “legitimate interest” – such as investigative journalists or NGOs – see the registry as well.

Tamira Gunzburg, the Brussels director of the One campaign – a pro-transparency pressure group – said Austria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Finland, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK back public access.

But Germany, Poland, and Spain oppose it, while the commission doesn’t have a vote.”

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