The U.K. and the Cayman Islands have reached an agreement that will allow the continued cooperation in the fight against money laundering and other crime under an agreement struck more than two years ago.
The Minister of State for the Overseas Territories Tariq Ahmad and Premier Alden McLaughlin released a statement Monday confirming that British and Cayman officials had reached an agreement about the sharing of beneficial ownership information that will provide for “close and effective” cooperation.
The agreement does not affect the threat that the British government may impose public beneficial ownership registers in the overseas territories through an order in council, if they have not been implemented by 2020.
Last month, Donald Toon, a director of the National Crime Agency in the U.K., criticized a lack of cooperation from the Cayman Islands in an interview with the BBC. He said the British law enforcement agency had faced difficulties in its investigations when it attempted to obtain information on who the true owners of certain Cayman-registered companies were.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office blamed the problems on Cayman’s withdrawal from the so-called exchange of notes, which provides for the delivery of beneficial ownership information in response to British law enforcement requests within 24 hours and in urgent cases within one hour.
The FCO claimed that the Cayman Islands government had pulled out of the agreement struck with the U.K. government, in reaction to the U.K. parliament’s threat to impose publicly accessible beneficial ownership registries in the overseas territories with the recently passed U.K. Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act.
The Cayman Islands government refuted the criticism, stating there had been only one case, in May 2018, in which a legal issue affected Cayman’s response time to a National Crime Agency request. Premier McLaughlin said last month that fundamental data security and privacy rights issues were at the core of that dispute.
The new agreement allows the continuation of the cooperation under the exchange of notes.
It followed discussions on the technical process used by the General Registry and Royal Cayman Islands Police Service for providing information to U.K. law enforcement in a timely manner. The U.K., in turn, provided assurances that address the Cayman Islands’ concerns over privacy issues and the secure transmission of data, the joint statement said.
The new mechanism will effectively end the dispute over Cayman’s cooperation with U.K. law enforcement.
“The National Crime Agency and RCIPS confirmed that they are satisfied with the operational adjustments and that the agreement immediately allows them to resume collaboration under the Exchange of Notes, which is in addition to the other mechanisms for information exchange that have been in existence for years,” the statement said.
Cayman’s current beneficial ownership register was established in response to the exchange of notes, which did not require that the information is made available to the public at large.