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Cayman Islands Government Displeased with Anti-Money Laundering Bill

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May 09, 2018

In a statement, the Cayman Islands government said that it is "deeply aggrieved by the acceptance of the UK Government ... of an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti Money Laundering Bill in the House of Commons." The statement refers to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill amendment that was accepted by the House of Commons on Tuesday, May 1. It requires the British Overseas Territories, but not the Crown Dependencies, to establish public registers of beneficial ownership information by no later than December 31, 2020.

The premier, the Honorable Alden McLaughlin, said, "Imposition of legislation, through powers that date back to the colonial era, over and above the wishes of the democratically elected legislative bodies of the Overseas Territories represents a gross affront to the constitutional relationship we currently have with the United Kingdom. Further, imposing such an obligation on the Overseas Territories while exempting the Crown Dependencies discriminates unfairly against the Overseas Territories. This amendment is based solely on prejudice and a willful misunderstanding of our current regulatory framework."

The minister for financial services, the Honorable Tara Rivers, added, "Even more unfortunate, today's actions indicate that, for political expediency, the UK has chosen to ignore Cayman's high level of ongoing cooperation which is embedded in our laws and international agreements. Over 100 tax authorities globally, including HMRC [Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs], and UK crime agencies already have access to information which states who owns what and how much in relation to Cayman companies. Indeed, verified beneficial ownership information on Cayman structures has been available to the UK's legal, regulatory and tax authorities for more than 15 years, and our agreement on the sharing of information with the United Kingdom authorities is of such strength that we have committed to reporting within 24 hours, or within 1 hour in the case of a truly emergent situation."

Central public registers are not the global standard. Premier McLaughlin went on to state, "Since 2013 I have been completely clear that, when public registers become a global standard, the Cayman Islands will adopt them. The actions in the House of Commons today seeks to impose the UK's own flawed system of unverified public registers upon the Overseas Territories by the end of 2020."

The premier also noted the apparent double standard adopted by the House of Commons during the debate on the same amendment bill, when it voted down an amendment to the United Kingdom's Companies Act, which would have required due diligence on beneficial owners of UK companies in order to prevent money laundering.

"The Government of the Cayman Islands is keeping all options on the table including a legal challenge to the amendment which violates accepted and conventional constitutional relationships between the UK and the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands has its own democratically elected government and is not represented in the UK Parliament. The actions of the House of Commons in seeking to legislate for the Cayman Islands amount to constitutional overreach and are reminiscent of the worst injustices of a bygone era of colonial despotism."

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