Cayman and UK share views on beneficial ownership

The premier and the acting British Minister for the Overseas Territories (OTs) the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP announced at a briefing on Thursday, 27 August, that both countries have discussed the issue of beneficial ownership and see eye to eye in terms of the main objective.

Transparency in providing information on beneficial ownership was never Cayman’s issue, said Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin.

“The issue was whether or not we should establish a central registry and the UK has more recently moved to the position where another effective mechanism other than central registry, which allows the exchange of the information, is what they are really interested in…we should be able to present to the UK a plan with respect to that at the JMC (Joint Ministerial Council),” said the premier at the press briefing.

The establishment of public central registries has been a general topic of discussion ever since the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Gauke, stated in the UK parliament “the government expects each of the OTs with a financial center to set out timetables for implementing central registries or similarly effective systems by November 2015.” The Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council is to be held in November this year.

Mr McLaughlin previously told the Cayman Reporter he sees no need for a central register on the island as there has been legislation in place for over fifteen years requiring the relevant authorities to have the necessary information with respect to the beneficial ownership.

“We believe there are more effective means of being able to provide this information to law enforcement agencies, tax regulatory authorities, people involved in combating money laundering, terrorist financing etc, other than central registries, where the whole world has access to whatever information there is,” the premier explained.

Mr Shapps made a short visit to the Cayman Islands while standing in as Overseas Territories Minister for James Dudderidge due to illness.

The junior minister visited Cayman following a stop in Jamaica and according to the Governor’s Office he said he “is in the region on other business but has used this opportunity to call in to the Cayman Islands.” During his brief two hour visit he met with Mr McLaughlin for the first time.

Mr Shapps said several topics were discussed during his meet with the premier such as ways the UK and Cayman can equally partner on issues, the Cayman Islands government budget that is being presented, tax transparency, the JMC meetings in November, the issue of beneficial ownership and the significance of Cayman’s attachment to the UK, as well as the impressive growth the country has experienced over the years.

“In terms of beneficial ownership, the principle is really straightforward,” said Mr Shapps. “There needs to be, certainly for law enforcement agencies, the ability to find out who owns what in a transparent way.” He added that information needs to be quickly and efficiently available.

“The important thing with this, as with so many other things, is agreeing what the objective is,” said Mr Shapps, who indicated that both countries have a similar objective of improving transparency.

In regards to finding a solution to accomplish the objective of both countries Mr Shapps added, “I don’t detect any barriers in the way to achieving that.”