December 7, 2023

The Editor Speaks: It was a HARD talk but Premier was no SOFT touch

Colin WilsonwebIt was with some anxiety that I watched our Premier, Alden McLaughlin, on the BBC’s HARDtalk show on Wednesday (12) as I know how brutal interviewer Steven Sackur can be.

From the start Sackur was on the attack describing Cayman as one of the strangest and most unbalanced micro-economies in the world. The interviewer said The Tax Justice Network ranked Cayman as the fifth most secret international financial centre in the world and asked whether it was right Ugland House could have hundreds of companies without a physical presence? He quoted Tim Ridley, the former Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Chairman’s comment that Cayman would lose its competitive edge if there was too much regulation and used The UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron’s name a number of times inferring he was like a Big Bad Wolf and the Premier must be fed up with the Mother Country’s control.

McLaughlin was up to the challenge. He did not get angry with any of the questions and kept his composure even when Sackur, especially at the start of the interview kept interrupting him. The Premier agreed that Cayman at the very beginning of its life as a tax haven was just that – a place where it would assist financial corporations in other countries to avoid taxes but he said things were very different now. Cayman’s house was far cleaner he said than any other country with a financial sector. If there was a level playing field Cayman would comply with any new legislation.

The Premier hit back very well regarding Ugland House and I expect he knew that question was coming. Because Ugland was the home of a law firm, he said, it was perfectly OK for the companies not to have a physical presence there and likened it to 1209 Orange Street in Delaware, USA that has even more registered companies without a physical presence.

Answering The Tax Justice Network claim McLaughlin almost was scathing about them but changed his mind saying that international regulators, onshore authorities and the OECD had found Cayman has one of the best and most robust regulatory regimes in the world.

As for Tim Ridley’s comment the premier said Cayman had met the challenge of increasing regulations for fifteen years and the sector continued to grow and prosper.

As for problems with Mother England McLaughlin said Cayman now had a good relationship with London although he acknowledged there were tensions from time to time. He was not looking for independence even though there were some in the country who wanted it.

The only time the Premier stumbled was when Sackur sarcastically said McLaughlin had painted a picture of a well regulated jurisdiction but had successfully prosecuted only six cases of money laundering in over seven years. All the Premier could say in reply was to repeat Cayman was rated as having one of the best anti-money laundering regime’s in the world.

Sackur also pressured McLaughlin on whether Cayman would publish the information it keeps on beneficial owners. He said David Cameron was insisting all of its offshore tax haven territories would have to. The Premier said consultation was ongoing. “No country in the world,” he said reveals all the beneficial ownership of corporations to the wider public. When pushed further on the question McLaughlin conceded the UK was going to ask for it. He agreed that it was not right for people or corporations to avoid paying tax that was due. Cayman, he said, was no longer a place where corporations could come to evade paying tax.

He was not concerned, he said, with the increasing regulations or the transparency because in the past it had fueled Cayman’s success. Business, he said, are increasingly more attracted to reputable well regulated jurisdictions. “The modern day Cayman is an open, transparent jurisdiction,” he claimed. He gave a list of all of Cayman’s TIEA and multilateral agreements.

I was, I admit, surprised how well Cayman’s Premier did. It was hard but he suffered no real bruising. He was most definitely not a soft patsy for Sackur.

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  1. Carol-Ann Rudy says

    I watched HardTalk and was most impressed with Mr. McLaughlin’s presence of mind opposite a tough interviewer!

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