Premier: Cayman ‘will not be bullied’

Premier Alden McLaughlin has criticized the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) as being “disingenuous” in regard to the Cayman Islands’ cooperation with British law enforcement, in a statement issued Monday afternoon.

The FCO claimed on Sunday that Cayman’s withdrawal from an agreement with the U.K., governing the exchange of beneficial ownership information, had made cooperation on serious organized crime more difficult.

RELATED: Full statement from Premier Alden McLaughlin 

Premier McLaughlin admitted to having a difference of opinion on certain parts of the so-called Exchange of Notes but said that would not amount to non-cooperation with the U.K.

The agreement established a cooperation mechanism for the speedier exchange of information with British law enforcement about the true owners of Cayman-registered entities during the course of criminal investigations.

“At the core of the current dispute with the FCO are fundamental issues of data security and human rights, specifically the right to privacy,” Premier McLaughlin said in a statement.

Premier McLaughlin said the FCO had ignored and dismissed the case law examples government had submitted to support its stance on certain privacy and data security issues relating to the exchange of information.

Although the FCO had eventually conceded that the concerns around encryption were well founded, Premier McLaughlin said other issues remain.

One such disagreement with the U.K. involves the competent authority for the exchange of information.

The FCO argues that stopping the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service from being the competent authority for U.K. law enforcement requests of beneficial ownership information hampered criminal investigations.

The premier maintains that under the agreement with the U.K., the Cayman Islands General Registry is the competent authority for the maintenance of Cayman’s beneficial ownership platform.

The Financial Crime Unit had only functioned as the point of contact during a transitional period when the centralized beneficial ownership platform was established.

“The revocation of this delegation to the Financial Crime Unit in no way affects the ability of local law enforcement to cooperate with its international counterparts, a point that has explicitly been made to the FCO on multiple occasions,” the premier said.

He added that even though the government believes that he U.K. is in breach of the agreement, it had “repeatedly sought to ensure that an enhanced level of cooperation” remains in place.

However, the premier’s statement concluded, Cayman “will not be bullied into the violation of fundamental principles of human rights or to cooperating in a way that runs counter to internationally accepted standards.”