Some banks have published the
account numbers of hundreds of dormant bank accounts and drafts.
Those are accounts that have not
been accessed for at least six years and will be subject to seizure by
government by the end of this year if they are not claimed.
According to representatives at
both Butterfield Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada, government had given
instructions for the country’s banking institutions to publish the account
numbers by 30 September.
The law allowing government to take
money from unclaimed accounts was passed on 13 July. It set a 31 July deadline
for the publication of the accounts in the government gazette as well as in at
least one local newspaper.
The dormant account lists can be
found inside today’s Caymanian Compass.
Since the law’s passage came so
close to the publication date, Acting Chief Officer of Financial Services for
the Ministry of Finance Dax Basdeo said some extra time was given to help the
banks collect all the information.
“Due to the tight time frame in
implementing the law with the dates that had been agreed with the banks and the
clarification of some issues, the banks were granted an extension until 30
September to publish their notifications,” Mr. Basdeo said.
The account numbers listed – well
more than 500 of them – contain only the numbers and the dates the accounts
were opened. The names of the account holders were not published.
RBC’s Gilman Solomon-Hydes said the
names were excluded to protect the privacy rights of the individuals who held
the accounts. Mrs. Solomon-Hydes said that the bank also sent out individual
letters to the account holders at the last available address the financial
institution had for the person.
Royal Bank of Canada had at least
three dormant accounts that were opened in 1977. Butterfield listed one account
that was opened in October 1976.
The total amount of money held in
dormant accounts in Cayman has not been identified, but it has previously been
estimated at somewhere in the millions of dollars.
Unless certain transactions are
made on the accounts by 31 December, the money in any of the dormant accounts
will be transferred to government’s general fund by 31 March.
Those transactions include: an
increase or decrease in the amount of money held in the account, either
presenting interests in the account at the local bank or sending a letter to
the financial institution regarding the monies held, or making a claim made
under a trust.
Reports on the dormant accounts
would have to be submitted by the financial institution to the Ministry of
Finance and the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority. The company also has to
maintain a register of dormant accounts.
If a mistake is made, there is a
process under the law for former account-holders to reclaim their funds.
However, that would have to be done through government; in other words, banks
would not be liable in the recovery process.
Those claimants who do not agree
with the government’s decision regarding their accounts – if the money is not
paid back – can appeal to the Grand Court.
In any case, the government is
responsible for any of the money transferred to it from a dormant bank account
once that transaction takes place. The account holder would no longer be able
to seek recovery of those funds from the bank under the Dormant Accounts Law
Although the Legislative Assembly
voted to proceed with the dormant accounts proposal in July, some lawmakers
expressed concern about the measure. At one point in September’s assembly
meeting, George Town MLA Alden McLaughlin indicated he had received representations
that the measure had become an “unmitigated disaster”.
Mr. McLaughlin did not explain what
was meant by that statement.
Premier McKeeva Bush said in July
that the dormant accounts recovery should not have been anything controversial
and that opposition members were merely making negative statements about the
plan for the sake of it.