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UK CHANCELLOR WELCOMES COMMITMENTS FROM CARIBBEAN TERRITORIES

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.

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Mike Misick ,Former Premier,Calls For Independence in Turks and Caicos Islands

Mike Misick Calls For Independence Referendum – Hits Out At Hague’s ‘Contemptuous’ Response

Published in TCI Weekly News,by VANESSA NARINE,on 25th March 2013

FORMER Premier, Michael Misick, on Wednesday, called for an independence referendum in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

He said: “If you [William Hague] are so confident that the Turks and Caicos people want to remain British, why don’t you carry out a referendum on the question as you just did for show in the Falklands or as Scotland is doing in 2014?

“That referendum and only that referendum will determine the true desire of the Turks and Caicos people.”

The embattled former Premier, still in Brazil, responded in a letter to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Secretary of State, William Hague, who, in a March 12 letter, replied to concerns raised by current Premier, Dr. Rufus Ewing.

He said: “I also think that because of Dr. Ewing’s stance, and indeed the PNP party’s stance, our country should be moving towards independence….no matter how much you [Hague] and the British government put misinformation out there to hide your true agenda and to cover up for your incompetent officials, it will not change the facts nor the hearts of Turks and Caicos people that the British has worn out their welcome in the Turks and Caicos Islands and their days are numbered.

“The clock is ticking and political independence and freedom for our people cannot be stopped.”

Misick also charged that the contempt that British officials at the highest level have for the Turks and Caicos Islands and its people is astonishing.

He said: “I read with amazement your letter of arrogance that is in the public media to our Premier Hon Dr Rufus Ewing.

“The contempt that British officials at the highest level have for Turks and Caicos Islands and its people is astonishing, and the second such letter where a public dressing is handed down to the leader of our country because of his public stand that the local elected Government should be able to govern including allowing the elected Parliament to enact legislation for the benefit of our people and our country.”

UNDERMINING
According to Misick, British officials are doing everything in their power to undermine Dr. Ewing’s Government.

He said: “The evidence is in all of the confusion about the elections and misrepresenting the true facts that transpire with my tenure as Premier of our country.”

According to him, British officials are hiding facts they do not want the people of the Turks and Caicos or the world to know.

Misick said: “The fact is that the British government has destroyed the Turks and Caicos economy, its judicial system and eroded the rule of law over the past four years.

“The borrowings that you refer to in your letter were borrowings that your British occupation government did to prop up an illegitimate interim regime and to spend tens of millions of dollars in a political motivated investigation to politically persecute me and my colleagues because of our views.

“No elected Turks and Caicos Government should have to pay back money that you borrowed.

“You talk about Robin Auld, a sole handpicked commissioner by the British government to carry out their instructions in a Commission of Inquiry whether outcome was predetermined.

“If there was nothing to hide than there should have been a transparent Commission of Inquiry with at least a commissioner with eminent judges from the Caribbean included on the panel.”

Misick stressed that what is clear is that the relationship between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British government is over.

He said: “It is now not based on mutual respect but based on a bullying and arrogant superiority complex that should be relegated to the dust bin of history….you should manifest your claim of belief in democracy and act honest, transparent and behave responsibly.” (VANESSA NARINE)

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WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN BRITAIN AND TURKS AND CAICOS CONTINUES

War of words between Britain and Turks and Caicos continues
Published on March 15, 2013,by Caribbean News.

TCI Premier Rufus Ewing (L) and Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague

By Caribbean News Now contributor

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — In a statement to the House of Assembly in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) on Thursday, Premier Rufus Ewing accused Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague of corruption.

Responding to a strongly worded letter on Tuesday from Hague, which had described Ewing’s speech last month to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government as a substantial misrepresentation, Ewing said that the release of Hague’s letter just prior to election petition court hearings and before a potential by-election was an attempt by Britain to influence the voters and the courts and is therefore a corrupt act.

Ewing then went on to defend his address to CARICOM. He repeated his position that CARICOM was a key factor in Britain’s recent agreement to shelve the imposition of value added tax in the TCI. However, none of the CARICOM member states or associate members has made any public statement expressing any opinion in relation to the TCI and/or VAT.

Hague had chided Ewing for failing to mention the dire state of the economy coming out of the previous Progressive National Party (PNP) government led by Michael Misick who, Hague pointed out, remains a fugitive from justice.

Ewing said there was no need for him to mention this because “we all know about these events.”

Ewing went on to say that he was sure that many TCI citizens now favour independence.

For the first time, Ewing, who is himself a medical doctor, spoke about the pressing health care issues in the TCI.

Weeks earlier, Ewing had celebrated the idea of the third party use of the hospitals and health care facilities for medical tourism. As these facilities are operated by private contractors funded by the TCI government, media questioning as to who benefits from the practice has been ongoing.

Ewing said he will be making sure that the TCI gets a share of the third party operations of InterHealth Canada, which is are operating the hospitals.

TCI taxpayers are responsible for paying a $120 million mortgage on the two small hospitals, which also includes an excessive 12 percent rate of interest. The National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP), in the creation of which Ewing was reported to have played a central role, is costing the TCI over 40 percent of every tax dollar collected.

On three separate occasions, Ewing has claimed that financial audits of the hospitals were underway but the new InterHealth Canada CEO said that no audits had been started.

Ewing also blamed the downturn in the economy for people losing their jobs and no longer paying 6 percent of their wages into the health plan.

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Dellis Cay Groundbreaking June 2008

Dellis Cay Groundbreaking in June 2008.
Please click on the link and watch the video.

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Falkland Islands Referendum For The Future

Falklands referendum, 10-11 March

March 7, 2013
Published by Leigh Turner,General Consul UK,in Istanbul Turkey

Stanley from Mt Tumbledown, Falklands

In June 2012 the Falkland Islands announced their intention to hold a referendum in order to give the Falkland Islanders their say on the future.

The referendum will take place on 10-11 March. Some background is here, including the full question which will be put (which includes the notably clear text: Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom? YES or NO).

This is fascinating and important stuff. I worked on British Overseas Territories a few years ago and had the privilege of visiting the Islands, and meeting the islanders – an outstanding group of people. Just under a year ago I wrote a blog about the Falklands. Here is the text of that blog (for Turkish version see link above):

The Falklands: a way forward?

I’m sitting next to a senior diplomat from a respected European country at dinner when conversation turns to the Falkland Islands, known to Spanish speakers as the Malvinas. “A key fact,” I say, “is that the 3,000 people who live in the Islands want to remain British.”

“Ah,” says the top diplomat. “But how do you know that? Opinion surveys can always be manipulated.”

This comment surprises me. I ask whether the diplomat knows from which country the people who live in the Falkland Islands originate or what language they speak; has ever spoken to a Falkland Islander; or has ever been to the Islands. The answer in every case is no.

In a way, it’s not surprising that, 30 years after the Argentine invasion and occupation of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia led to the tragic loss of 255 British and 649 Argentine military personnel, even some top diplomats don’t know much about the Falklands. The Islands are a long way from most places – including over 1500km from Buenos Aires. It’s easy to imagine that they fit neatly into some kind of post-colonial template, with an indigenous population straining under the yoke of colonial masters.

In fact the Falkland Islands are known as the Islas Malvinas in Spanish because the first people to establish a colony on the Islands were French people from the Breton port of Saint-Malo in 1764 (the French called the Islands the Iles Malouines). Before this there was no indigenous population on the Islands. The British arrived in 1765 and claimed sovereignty. At this time, Argentina did not exist – the Argentinean Declaration of Independence was issued by the Congress of Tucuman in 1816.

In 1767 Spain arrived in the Islands and gradually built up its presence. In 1776 the British left, leaving behind a plaque asserting continued sovereignty. Spain continued to rule the Islands from Buenos Aires until 1811, when they too departed, also leaving a plaque. The following years saw various people come and go, including the United States and numerous whaling ships. There was no Argentine claim to sovereignty until 1832, when Argentina, now independent, set up a short-lived settlement. This was followed by a return of the British in 1833 who again asserted British sovereignty. The Islands have remained British ever since, with the exception of the 74 days after the Argentine invasion on 2 April 1982.

For the next century or so, there was no dispute between the United Kingdom and Argentina about the sovereignty of the Islands. Indeed, in 1850 the two countries ratified a convention for the settlement of existing differences, thus acknowledging that there was no territorial dispute between them. During those years many people, most from the United Kingdom, came to live in the Falklands.

In the late 20th Century, at a time when democracy in Argentina was weak, the country began to reassert its sovereignty over the Falklands. This culminated in 1982 in Argentine forces invading and occupying the Islands; and in the British action to recover them. The Argentine government does not now assert that the invasion was right: on the contrary, it states that the invasion was a tragic mistake made by a military dictatorship which cost the lives of many conscript soldiers.

In 1994, Argentina incorporated its claim to the Islands in the Argentine Constitution, stating that this claim should be pursued in a manner “respectful of the way of life of the Islanders and according to the principles of international law.”

Since then, Argentine policies towards the Falklands have varied. In the 1990s, perceiving that the Islanders were suspicious of Argentine intentions after the 1982 invasion, the Argentine government pursued a policy of seeking to gain the Islanders’ trust, for example by making travel to and from the Islands easier and by launching discussions with the United Kingdom about management of fish and squid stocks (squid, having no sense of national boundaries, migrate annually between Argentine and Falkland territorial waters).

In the past decade, however, Argentina appears to have abandoned its policy of trying to win the trust of the Islanders and to have developed a policy of making life as difficult for them as possible. This has included making it hard for cargo ships to travel between the South American mainland and the Falklands; preventing cruise ships which have docked in the Falklands from visiting Argentina; taking action against businesses involved in oil exploration in the Falklands; and so on. The policy seems designed to put economic pressure on the Islanders in the hope this will make them want to negotiate about sovereignty.

These policies have not helped to build trust in Argentine intentions on the Islands. This is unfortunate because the most important fact governing the future of the Islands is the principle and right of self-determination enshrined in Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations. This means that, if the people of the Falklands wish to remain British, there is no question of the British Government forcing them to be anything else. This is why the UK has said that it will only talk to Argentina about the future of the Islands if the people of the Falklands wish this to happen.

What could happen next? The people of the Falkland Islands are keen to trade and have people-to-people links with Argentina and the rest of South America, as happened frequently before 1982 (when some Argentines, for example, lived on the Islands as Spanish teachers). In a 21st century interconnected world, open trade and improved communications benefit everyone. I’ve been to the Falklands and met many of the Islanders. Their main goal is to get on with their lives.

I’ve also been to Buenos Aires. I have no doubt of the strength of feeling amongst ordinary Argentineans about the Argentine claim to sovereignty. This is not surprising, since the Argentine claim is part of the school syllabus in Argentina and the subject is a mainstay of political discourse there. But, as we all know, strength of feeling does not necessarily have a direct relationship with being right or wrong. The key question is what could be done to move the process forwards.

How could relations between Argentina and the Islands be normalised? One suggestion often put forward would be for Argentina to stop trying to put pressure on the Islanders and instead to be nice to them – in other words, to recognise their democratically expressed views. The events of the last 30 years mean it will not be easy to rebuild trust. But rebuilding trust is vital if there is to be any long-term normalisation of the relationship between the Islands and the South American mainland. That does not mean the Islanders will automatically start wanting to talk about sovereignty – I could see no sign of that at all when I visited the Islands a couple of years ago. But history shows that charm offensives with no pre-determined outcomes are almost always a better way to win friends and influence people than the reverse.

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Further Doubts About Elections This Year in Turks and Caicos Islands

 

United Kingdom (UK) ministers have cast further doubt about the possibility that elections that will return the Turks and Caicos Islands to self-rule will be held this year.
“It is clear that while significant progress has been made in many areas, further work remains to be done before UK Ministers can judge significant enough progress to allow them to reinstate the Constitution, thus triggering fresh elections,” said Governor Ric Todd who has just returned from an official visit to the UK where he met with UK Ministers.
“For some of the milestones, such as those relating to the constitution and Crown Land, for example, there is little left still to do. Others such as the pathway to acquiring Islander status should be well on the way to completion later this summer. We must continue to give UK Ministers confidence that the country is run according to its stated budget and a fiscal surplus will be achieved this financial year. The milestone relating to substantial progress in the ongoing criminal investigation will require their clear judgment given that the trials will not be completed this year.”
Parts of the TCI Constitution were suspended in August 2009. Elections were constitutionally due in 2011, but over the past few months, certain British officials have been teasing residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands with promises that elections will be held this year.
The Governor added: “The real story behind this update, however, is that there are a great many people both here in the TCI and the UK too working very hard towards achieving these milestones which will make this country a fairer and more transparent society in which to live, visit and to do business in. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them for all of their hard work and commitment.”
According to a press release from his spokesman Neil Smith, Governor Todd will now conduct public meetings in North and Middle Caicos on May 10 and 11, Salt Cay and South Caicos on May 14 and 15, with dates still to be confirmed for Providenciales and Grand Turk, where he will personally update community representatives.

The primary objectives of the Interim Administration, expressed through the milestones, to: stabilise the financial position of the Turks & Caicos Islands; update laws and legal safeguards to ensure fairer decision making; reform weaknesses in land and immigration matters;  put in place robust public finance procedures and create a more efficient public service.
Posted May 7 2012 in SUN TCI

 

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DEMOCRACY IS IN DANGER IN TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS AND I AM A VICTIM

Democracy is in danger in Turks and Caicos Islands and I am a victim of this.

In July 2008 The Governor of Turks and Caicos – representing the UK Government – appointed a Commission to conduct an Inquiry into “possible corruption or other dishonesty” in Government. Hearings were held – presided over by His Lordship, Mr. Justice Sir Robin Auld – in January of 2009, concluding in February of the same year. In August 2009, His Excellency, then the Governor of the Turks and Caicos islands, Gordon Wetherell brought into force an Order in Council suspending portions of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution. Under this move Ministerial Government, and the House of Assembly – which is the only means of representing the people – was dissolved and all representative seats were vacated, with the promise of elections in 24 months. Amongst the astounding changes was that the basic right in the European Declaration of Human Rights to a Trial by Jury was also suspended, and confirmed recently by law. The sole political power in the Turks and Caicos Islands is now the Governor, appointed by the British government. He has appointed an Advisory Council and a Consultative Forum. However, as the appointment documents make clear, the Governor has no obligation to follow or regard their recommendations. This undemocratic move, which is totally inconsistent with Article I of the United Nation’s Charter on the Right to Self-Determination, is still the case in Turks and Caicos, and still, now nearly 2 and a half years later.

And still there is no date for elections.

My involvement in the Turks and Caicos dates from early 2005. In June of that year we purchased a private island called Dellis Cay, to develop a USD$1 billion project with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and villas with world famous architects – including Zaha Hadid, David Chipperfield, Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, Piero Lissoni and Carl Ettenspenger. The development proceeded in an unremarkable fashion, with usual succession of planning permits, from the start construction date of June 2008 to October 2009. A mixture of funds from my own resources, sales of residential units and loans from the Trinidad & Tobago Unit Trust Corporation funded the development.

In June of 2008, we bought a second island, Joe Grant Cay, from the Crown (The government of Turks and Caicos), presented the deal structure to the British Governor of Turks and Caicos – who was then His Excellency Richard Tauwhare – with the development agreement signed in November of 2008 by the new Governor, His Excellency Gordon Wetherell, with the objective of developing a resort with Bulgari Hotel and Villas.

In January 2009, in the course of hearings by the Commission of Inquiry, the Premier of Turks and Caicos disclosed political contributions by several businessperson and companies toward his party’s elections, two years before, in 2007. He disclosed a political contribution made by our company as well; which is normal all over the world, including in Britain.

Neither the Inquiry, nor the Judge, nor the Governor made any request of me, or my representatives to provide answers about these contributions. Yet, our actions were remarked upon adversely in the Commission’s report.

In June 2009, we asked the High Court of Turks and Caicos Islands to undertake a Judicial Review of the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry, with the result that the Supreme Court called for the removal of any and all adverse references to my or our companies. In his ruling the Chief Justice agreed with us, that there was a “Clear and almost total failure by the Commission to follow its own procedures”. His Lordship stated further that I had not been given a fair hearing, and said that if any adverse statements were included in the Final Report, they should not be published.

It must be understood that even though this court is in Turks and Caicos, it is an English court, applying English law and procedures. Yet, four (4) weeks later, in July of 2009, the Final Report was published, with text unredacted, so that the adverse statements made about me and my companies, which were judged to have been unfair and unlawful, were made public; even after the Chief Justice ruled they should not be published.

Despite my attempts to cooperate and assist the lending bank for our projects to understand the issues relating to the Commission of Inquiry and their unlawful published reports, it was no longer possible to avoid the entrance into Receivership of the Dellis Cay project in favour of the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation in October 2009.

This failure of the Commission to follow the law has therefore done me harm because I provided personal guarantee to the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation.

Since that time – January 2010 – the bank has obtained a worldwide freezing order against me. The Attorney General of Turks and Caicos issued a Writ and Statement of Claim regarding Joe Grant Cay in July 2010.

I have appealed both actions.

After three (3) years, in October 2011, I was finally able to explain my side of the allegations of bribery for the political contributions above. In the meantime, my assets in Dellis Cay and the assets of buyers in that development have been destroyed; even though I have never bribed anyone in Turks and Caicos, or anywhere else.

I have been made a victim of the politics of Turks and Caicos. In English law, the saying is that “justice must not only be done, but it must be…seen to be done”. I speak now to warn that this is not the case in Turks and Caicos and to say that human rights, and property rights, democracy and justice are under threat in Turks and Caicos