Huckabee set straight

Republican US presidential candidate Mike Huckabee left Cayman Sunday morning after his brief visit knowing much more about the Cayman Islands than when he arrived.

Mr. Huckabee met with Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin for about an hour before delivering the keynote address at the Young Caymanian Leadership Award ceremony on Saturday night at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

‘I had a great meeting with [Mr. Tibbetts and Mr. McLaughlin],’ he said in a half-hour interview with the press just before he gave his YCLA address.

‘One of the things we discussed is the rather significant and rather dramatic changes in Cayman banking,’ he said. ‘It was fantastic to get an update on how strict the banking laws are here.’

The Cayman Islands has been brought up during the presidential campaign in a negative light by Mr. Huckabee and by Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who recently called Ugland House – the reputed home of more than 12,000 companies registered with the law firm Maples and Calder – ‘either the biggest building or the biggest tax scam on record.’

Mr. Huckabee not only took a swipe at former Republican Mitt Romney for his reported investments in the Cayman Islands, he expressed the desire to change US tax laws to lure American business away from legal tax-neutral jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands back to US shores.

‘If the US could implement a fair tax law… and if it didn’t tax productivity, it would have a dramatic effect on the [US] economy,’ he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said he and Mr. Tibbetts discussed a ‘range of things’ with Mr. Huckabee.

‘He seemed very interested and willing to learn about what makes Cayman tick, especially with regard to the financial sector,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.

The topic of all the off-shore companies registered in the Cayman Islands came up in the discussion and Mr. McLaughlin said they pointed out to Mr. Huckabee that there are currently more than 200,000 corporations registered to a certain address in Delaware in the United States.

The presidential campaign was another topic of discussion, and Mr. McLaughlin said Mr. Huckabee indicated he was not ready to concede defeat.

The trip to Cayman was Mr. Huckabee’s second; he was here in 2000 when he gave the keynote address at the inaugural YCLA event.

‘He really seemed genuinely impressed with Cayman,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘He said he’s been around to other Caribbean islands, but he found Cayman… pristine is the word I think he used.’

During the press briefing, Mr. Huckabee bemoaned the fact that he was only in Cayman for what amounted to basically 24 hours and he joked that it might take a S.W.A.T. to get him to leave his hotel room the next morning.