Member states of the Caribbean Community, also called Caricom, have given full support to Cayman and the other British Overseas Territories in their ongoing battle against a move to force public company ownership registers upon those territories.
A May 1 vote in the U.K. House of Commons that amended Britain’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill inserted a requirement in the bill that all U.K. overseas territories – but not Crown dependencies – implement an open public register of company ownership by Dec. 31, 2020.
If that deadline is not met, the bill requires the U.K. Secretary of State to draft orders in council to force the territories to comply. Cayman already has a register of company ownership, but it is only accessible upon request to certain law enforcement or legal taxing entities.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has said legal advice received by Cayman’s government in the U.K. noted that taking action against the vote in the Commons “brings the difficulties inherent in the arguments surrounding parliamentary supremacy” and that the proposal would more likely be fought in the Cayman Islands courts if the U.K. does seek to implement it.
The heads of government from the Caribbean Community member states backed that position during a conference last week in Kingston, Jamaica, voicing their own disapproval for the U.K.’s approach to the issue.
“[The heads of government] expressed their solidarity with the territories adversely affected by this unilateral action to legislate in areas of domestic policy constitutionally devolved to the territories without the consent and involvement of their people,” the official communique issued at the end of the conference July 6 read. “Moreover, the action ran counter to an alternative arrangement to public registers earlier negotiated and agreed with the UK government and put in place at great cost to the overseas territories.”
Premier McLaughlin thanked the Caribbean Community member states for their support.
“This is an important statement of solidarity from the heads of member states of CARICOM in support of the Overseas Territories, the majority of which are also associate members of [the Caribbean Community]” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Meanwhile, the issue of beneficial ownership registers arose during a question-and-answer session of the U.K. House of Commons last week as well.
During the meeting, U.K. MP Helen Goodman jokingly asked U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond if he would “organize a lunch” for the members of parliament who pushed through the amendment to the Sanctions and Money Laundering Bill. Ms. Goodman claimed that “ending tax secrecy” via the public company registers in the overseas territories would “bring in 10 million pounds a year” to the U.K. government treasury.
“When I have the money in the bank, I will invite them around for a glass of champagne,” Mr. Hammond responded.