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Cayman Islands joins Beneficial Ownership initiative

EastEndbeachgrandC-640x410(Wednesday, 11 May 2016) – The Cayman Islands has confirmed to the UK that it will join the initiative for the development of a global standard for the sharing of beneficial ownership information.

Furthermore, Cayman has informed HM Treasury that, in order to foster greater collaboration between law enforcement and tax authorities in the fight against corruption and tax evasion, it is welcoming jurisdictions that are participating in the initiative for the exchange of beneficial ownership information to enter agreements with Cayman that are similar to the Exchange of Notes currently in place with the UK.

true_ben3The Premier, the Hon. Alden McLaughlin, said Cayman’s invitation to participating jurisdictions is one of a number of current, significant measures that it is taking to promote global tax compliance, and also to collaborate with other countries that are engaged in global anti-corruption initiatives.

‘For many years Cayman has had in place a strong anti-corruption framework, as evidenced by the extension in 2010 of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention; and the expected extension of the UN Convention against Corruption, for which Cayman was favourably assessed in 2014’, he said.

Cayman’s measures include the repeal, by this September, of The Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law, which often has been misrepresented as Cayman’s ‘secrecy law’. It will be replaced with The Confidential Information Disclosure Law, which will better clarify the mechanisms through which confidential information may be shared with appropriate authorities. Furthermore, acknowledging privacy as a basic human right, in September new data protection legislation will also be introduced that is on par with what is in place in the European Union.

While bearer shares in the Cayman Islands have been immobilised since April 2000, Cayman recently passed legislation to completely abolish bearer shares by 13 July this year.

Cayman’s commitment to global transparency is well documented, through the range of instruments and protocols that already are in effect. These include tax information exchange agreements with 36 jurisdictions; the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, which allows tax information exchange with more than 90 countries; automatic data exchange as part of the European Union Savings Directive; and legislation relating to US FATCA, UK FATCA and the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard.

Cayman operates under a system of indirect taxation. This, however, has no bearing on the taxation that is due, or that is collected, by the home jurisdictions of foreign investors. Investors are responsible for tax liabilities in accordance with the laws of their home jurisdictions. Cayman’s transparency supports the efforts to ensure tax compliance with other countries’ tax authorities.

Minister of Financial Services Wayne Panton said that for nearly 20 years, Cayman’s system has helped to fight serious crimes globally, including money laundering, tax evasion and illicit finance; and that the current initiatives are reinforcing that foundation.

‘We recognise the need for closer collaboration, in line with international standards. We support current initiatives in this regard, and will do our part to promote transparency in order to encourage global tax compliance’, he said.



Related story:

Cayman Islands to repeal ‘secrecy law’

By Kirsten Hastings From International Adviser

The Cayman Islands will repeal its Confidential Relationships (Preservation) Law, commonly known as the ‘secrecy law’, by September 2016 as it looks to step up its fight against corruption and tax evasion.

Under the current legal framework, anyone who divulges, wilfully obtains, or attempts to obtain confidential information covered by the scope of the law can face a fine of $5,000 (£3,466, €4,393) and imprisonment of two years.

The law will be replaced with the Confidential Information Disclosure Law, which will better clarify the mechanisms through which confidential information may be shared with appropriate authorities.

No details were released about to what extent the new law will differ from the existing framework or how it will impact existing confidentiality arrangements.

Beneficial ownership

The Cayman Islands also confirmed on Wednesday that it will join the UK’s initiative for the development of a global standard for sharing beneficial ownership information.

Despite the Cayman Island’s public support of the initiative, minister of financial services Wayne Panton, in an interview with the Financial Times, criticised the transparency drive as “pointless”.

Ahead of the London anti-corruption summit on Thursday, Panton described the UK’s decision to push public registers as “weak policymaking” as it would not require the information to be verified.

“The small element of abusers of the international financial system […] are the very people who are not going to be honest with voluntary disclosures.”

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