UK Chancellor welcomes commitments from Caribbean territories to enhance transparency
Published on May 3, 2013
LONDON, England — Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has welcomed news that all those British Overseas Territories with significant financial centres have signed up to the UK government’s strategy on global tax transparency – marking a turning point in the fight against tax evasion and illicit finance.
Following the recent leadership shown by the Cayman Islands, the other Overseas Territories — Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands — have agreed to much greater levels of transparency of accounts held in those jurisdictions.
They have agreed to automatically share information bilaterally with the UK and multilaterally with the G5 — the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Under this agreement, much greater levels of information about bank accounts will be exchanged on a multilateral basis as part of a move to a new global standard.
The agreement will mean that the UK, along with other countries involved in the pilot, will be automatically provided with much greater levels of information about bank accounts held by their taxpayers in these jurisdictions, including names, addresses, dates of birth, account numbers, account balances and details of payments made into those accounts. This also includes information on certain accounts held by entities, such as trusts.
The Isle of Man – the first non-US jurisdiction to agree to greater exchange of information with the UK – has also agreed to join the multilateral initiative. Guernsey too has also expressed a clear interest.
These jurisdictions have, as well as this, committed to taking action to ensure they are at the forefront of transparency on company ownership. The British government is working closely with them ahead of the UK’s presidency of the G8. Earlier this year Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron identified tax transparency as a key priority for the summit.
This represents a step change in the level of international transparency and will make it much harder for people to escape paying taxes by hiding their money overseas.
Osborne has urged others to join this growing initiative.
He said, “This represents a significant step forward in tackling illicit finance and sets the global standard in the fight against tax evasion. I now hope others follow these governments’ lead and enter into similar commitments to this new level of transparency, removing the hiding places for those who seek to evade tax and hide their assets.”
These agreements builds on those the UK reached with Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey to exchange tax information automatically based on the automatic information exchange agreement with the US to implement the US FATCA law to tackle tax evasion. The British government sees this as setting a new standard in international tax transparency.
British PM urged to act over British Virgin Islands
Published on April 6, 2013
Road Town, British Virgin Islands. Wikimedia/Captain-tucker
By Caribbean News Now contributor
LONDON, England — Britain’s prime minister David Cameron has come under pressure to act against the secretive offshore industry at June’s G8 summit, as leaked evidence continued to mount that politicians and tycoons from all over the world have used the British Virgin Islands to hide funds.
The premier of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, was the latest to be named, along with prominent Pakistani, Indian, Thai and Indonesian figures – while there was fresh evidence of Britons acting as front directors for companies based in offshore havens such as the BVI, the Guardian newspaper reported.
A senior Liberal Democrat figure said the leaks showed the secret haven of the BVI “stains the face of Britain”, as anti-corruption campaigners called for action.
“How can David Cameron keep a straight face calling for the G8 to make big business pay tax when we let the BVI use British law and British protection to suck in billions in dirty money?” said Lord Oakeshott, a former Treasury spokesman.
“How much British aid paid to corrupt countries like Pakistan ends up behind a BVI brass plate?” he asked.
Robert Palmer of the campaign group Global Witness repeated the call for Cameron to act, saying, “The massive cache of leaked documents demonstrates how hidden ownership of shell companies facilitates corruption, tax dodging and other crimes.”
He added, “The time to deal with this issue is now. Given that he has pledged to tackle these secretive shell companies at this year’s G8 summit in Northern Ireland, he and his fellow leaders must commit to publishing information on the people who ultimately control and own companies.”
The names of thousands of owners of secret offshore companies are currently being published by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in collaboration with the Guardian and other international media.
This follows the leak to ICIJ of a hard drive containing 200GB of internal files of offshore incorporation agencies in the BVI, Singapore and the Cook Islands.
Self-Determination for Falklands but Nowhere Else in the Remaining British Empire
London denies constitutional powers to Afro-Caribbean population in the Turks and Caicos
By Wayne Madsen
Global Research, March 19, 2013
Strategic Culture Foundation 17 March 2013
Britain is loudly proclaiming that the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands, the South Atlantic island group that is hotly contested between Britain and Argentina, voted 99.8 percent to remain an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister David Cameron publicly rebuked the Argentine government and the new Pope, Francis I, for their support of Argentine sovereignty over the Falklands. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio supported Argentina’s historical claim to the islands.
If only Mr. Cameron were as dedicated to the wishes of the inhabitants of some of Britain’s other far-flung and nearer –to–home territories as he is toward the “Kelpers,” as the Falkland Islanders call themselves.
In the cases of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Anguilla in the Caribbean, the Tory-Liberal Democratic government in London has rolled back the self-government previously afforded the two island colonies.
The British government imposed direct rule on the Turks and Caicos in 2009, citing misrule and corruption by the island’s then-premier, Michael Misick. Britain appointed a Commission of Inquiry led by Sir Robyn Auld that recommended direct rule of the islands from London through Governor Gordon Wetherell; his successor Ric Todd; Attorney General Huw Shepheard; and Chief Financial Officer Hugh McGarel Groves. The Commission of Inquiry was replaced by a Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT) that began investigating Turks and Caicos government officials for corruption.
The new Premier, Galmo Williams, declared, “Our country is being invaded and re-colonized by the United Kingdom, dismantling a duly elected government and legislature and replacing it with a one-man dictatorship, akin to that of the old Red China, all in the name of good governance.”
The British neo-colonial government brought criminal charges against a dozen Turks and Caicos official, including five ministers in the Misick government, including Misick himself. The former premier fled to Brazil and was arrested pursuant to an extradition request from Britain. However, the breakdown in relations between London and Latin America over the Falklands issue may have compelled the Brazilian government to release Misick on bail awaiting a final determination on the extradition request.
Last November, an election was held in the Turks and Caicos and the Progressive National Party of former Premier Misick barely eked out a victory in an 8 seat to 7 seat vote for the opposition People’s Democratic Party in the House of Assembly. Dr. Rufus Ewing became Premier and among his first acts was to demand London restore constitutional powers from the abrogated constitution to the elected government and sack the governor, Attorney General, and other appointed officials. Cameron and Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary William Hague have resisted these calls. Essentially, when the white population and government of the Falklands demand something from London, they are heard and the request in positively acted upon. However, when it is an Afro-Caribbean population in the Turks and Caicos that makes a demand, they are ignored. It is the British colonial way.
In a letter to Hague, Ewing wrote that the investigation of the previous Misick government was a “farce, impregnated with cloak and dagger acts on the part of the Governor, AG Chambers and SIPT, to incarcerate Turks and Caicos Islanders at all costs, even the cost of the violation of the principles of justice and the human rights of individuals.”
Ewing told a summit of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Port au Prince, Haiti, “We are today being governed by a constitution that was conceived in Whitehall, and was, for all intents and purposes, thrust upon the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, at a time when they were without representation.” Ewing was referring to the 2011 Constitution that afforded the island less rights than the previous Constitution of 2006.
One of the main objectives of the London-appointed government was to impose a tax hike and austerity measures on the Turks and Caicos. Hague rejected Ewing’s request and stated: “We expect the territories to meet the same high standards of good governance and public financial management as in the UK.” That is rich coming from a British government that has been mired in financial and sexual scandal since it came to power. But, again, the rationale in London is based on the fact that when white ministers and Tory and Liberal Democratic MPs are engaged in scandal, it is a minor infraction, but when a government composed of people of color are accused of scandal, an unconstitutional, anti-democratic, neo-colonialist sacking of the entire government ensues.
It is clear that the Turks and Caicos wants to join its fellow CARICOM partners as an independent nation but London has thrown in a number of obstacles to full sovereignty. The Turks and Caicos are not alone in having neo-colonialism imposed on them from the halls of power along the banks of the Thames.
Britain, working with France, the Netherlands, the United States, Morocco, New Zealand, Canada, Israel, and Australia, has sought to diminish the role of the United Nations’ Special Committee on Decolonization in speeding independence for the 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories recognized by the committee, which includes the Turks and Caicos and another Caribbean island where Britain has re-stamped its colonial imprimatur, Anguilla.
In the 1960s, Anguilla declared unilateral independence from the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla because it wanted to retain its ties to Britain and not shed them in favor of a colonial status within a West Indies mini-federation. However, after some forty years, things have started to change on the island. Britain, instead of allowing Anguilla more self-government under Anguilla Constitutional Order 1 April 1982, amended in 1990, has reversed course and started to retain and retake more powers for itself. This has resulted in more Anguillans bringing up the independence option decades after the Anguillan Revolutions of 1967 and 1969.
Britain is trying to eliminate a provision in the Anguillan Constitution that provides for an option of independence. It is clear that Britain is trying to do to Anguilla what the Netherlands did to the three small Caribbean island territories of Bonaire, Saba, and Saint Eustatius after the dissolution of the self-governing Netherlands Antilles, make Anguilla part of Britain and incorporate it into the United Kingdom and European Union. The Netherlands incorporated its three territories as municipalities of the Netherlands in a move that was not clearly explained to the residents of the islands.
Last year, Anguillan Chief Minister Hubert Hughes told the UN that his government “decided that the Anguilla people will have to decide whether they want to stay in slavery or go on to freedom.”
As with the Turks and Caicos, Britain has imposed economy-crippling austerity on Anguilla using the pretext that the island is rife with financial corruption.
As bad as the Turks and Caicos islanders and Anguillans are in being re-colonized by Britain, no people have suffered more than the Ilois of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. In the 1960s, they were removed by Britain against their wishes and relocated to Mauritius where they live in squalor. Britain removed the islanders to make way for a U.S. nuclear weapons, intelligence, and, more recently, a gulag for detainees, on the island of Diego Garcia.
So, while Mr. Cameron lectures the Pope and Argentina on respecting the wishes of the Falkland Islanders, he continues to run roughshod over the wishes of the peoples of the Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, the Chagos Archipelago, and even those closer to home in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, who would opt for independence if not for the heavy jackboot of British colonial rule…
Shaun Malcolm again in discussions with his letter.The guy is champion in TCI with his letters to UK Government before and during UK Commission of Inquiry and Interim Government in Turks and Caicos Islands since 2009
Ashcroft case ‘a threat to free speech’ court told sues Independent for ‘defamation’
A “fundamental bulwark” of free speech could be lost if The Independent is denied the right to defend its decision to publish extracts from a letter written by a Turks and Caicos politician alleging that Lord Ashcroft posed a threat to democracy on the islands, a court was told yesterday.
The Tory peer is seeking damages from Independent News and Media (INM), former owners of The Independent, over articles published in November 2009, one of which quoted from a letter to David Cameron from an opposition Turks and Caicos politician, Shaun Malcolm. The letter pleaded that if the Conservatives came to power, they should not allow Lord Ashcroft to influence British policy on the islands, which have been under direct rule by the Foreign Office because of corruption in the government of the former Prime Minister, Michael Misick.
Lord Ashcroft worked for many years with William Hague, and bankrolled the Conservative Party while Mr Hague was party leader. The Independent alleged that he profited from a short-lived construction boom on Turks and Caicos, fuelled by the corrupt sale of crown land, the court heard. Mr Malcolm alleged in his letter that Lord Ashcroft’s wealth gave him influence which “we feel puts any hope of democracy at risk,” the court heard.
David Price QC, for INM, argued that this was comment, and in law even a ” whacky opinion” can be justified if it has any basis in fact. An appeal court has spent two days listening to arguments over what grounds the newspaper company can use to defend the case. Mark Warby QC, for Lord Ashcroft, claimed the allegations against the Tory peer were so “garbled and unclear” that it would be unfair to expect him to answer them. This argument has been upheld by Britain’s most senior libel judge, Mr Justice Eady, who said Mr Malcolm’s claim that Lord Ashcroft exercised a “level of influence” was a “defamatory comment” lacking “a factual basis”.
Mr Warby added that INM’s legal team had repeatedly gone back to Justice Eady with amendments to their case, but had failed to persuade him to lift the order.