A Cayman Islands delegation to Washington is home and relieved that the apparent furore over offshore tax havens is not as bad as it is portrayed in some media outlets.
‘It was a very useful trip, in that it confirmed again what we experienced on a similar trip in 2007, which is how little is really known about Cayman,’ said Alden McLaughlin, Minster for International Financial Services Policy. ‘In fact it was disturbing how little knowledge there was at the political level about the various channels of dialogue we have with the United States.’
‘We were hoping to open more channels on the lawmaking and legislative side,’ said Portfolio of Finance Public Relations Director Ted Bravakis, who also participated. ‘We certainly noticed there was not a lot of overt awareness of the Cayman Islands with regard to the people who sit on these legislative committees, so it was very much an education session,’ said Mr. Bravakis.
The trip was more of an information exchange for a brand new administration, and Mr. Bravakis said the people they spoke to were taken aback by the fact that the group was there.
‘Of course, we would have liked to have met the President, but everything else went as expected,’ said Mr. Bravakis.
The group was able to directly address inaccuracies raised by the proposed Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which has been introduced in each of the past four sessions of Congress, but has failed to progress through the US legislative process.
‘We were trying to get the message across that any potential US legislative proposals, which identify the Cayman Islands as uncooperative, ignore the long-standing international cooperation channels in tax, regulation and law enforcement between the two countries,’ said Mr. Bravakis.
Mr. McLaughlin was also struck by another unfounded threat.
‘I went to Washington with a feeling of apprehension especially since as we were landing, Gordon Brown was addressing Congress,’ he said.
‘It turned out that the speech had little apparent impact on the people we were talking to, even though in his speech, Mr. Brown asked ‘How much safer would our savings be if the whole world finally came together to outlaw shadow banking systems and outlaw tax havens?’,’ said Mr. McLaughlin. ‘The reality is that right now their focus is the state of the domestic economy at the time.’
He said the thought of a heightened state of concern about Cayman is unwarranted as far as the US is concerned.
‘We talked about the Levin Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act and the people we met with said the senator has introduced something akin every year,’ he said.
‘Coupled with the fact the time it takes between laying it in the house and having it pass into law is considerable, so that we can lay some store in that not being a major concern right now.’
He said Cayman’s real concern is Europe and particularly the attitude of Mr. Brown in the lead-up to the G-20 summit in London in April.
Mr. McLaughlin said that event was a much more significant concern to him, as it involves the threat of a new blacklist and the possibility that Cayman may appear on it.
‘If we can get an audience, we will go to the UK to discuss this,’ said Mr. McLaughlin.
The group, which was led by Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts, also included Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson; Attorney General Samuel Bulgin and Cayman Islands Monetary Authority Chairman Carlyle McLaughlin, were there to meet with members of Congress and policymakers.