The governments of the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands (which The Independent refers to as two notorious tax havens) have repeatedly ignored UK ministers’ requests to meet about cracking down on corporate tax avoidance of the kind detailed on the Panama Papers. [Many thanks to Peter Polack for bringing this item to our attention.]
Official letters obtained using freedom of information rules show humiliated ministers “disappointed” at being stood-up after “numerous attempts” to meet with the premiers of the British Virgin Island and Cayman Islands. Campaigners reacted to the letters by berating the Government’s “meek” and “softly-softly” approach towards the havens, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Government of “pussyfooting” around the issue.
The revelation comes after a massive data leak from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca which shows it registered more than 100,000 secret firms to the British Virgin Islands, a UK overseas territory which featured on an EU list of tax havens “blacklisted” by at least 10 member states. The Prime Minister David Cameron became embroiled in the scandal after he admitted on Thursday to profiting from selling shares in his father’s company Blairmore Holdings, an offshore fund set up in Panama in the 1980s.
The letters, sent in March 2015, show that ministers were expecting to meet with the premiers of the BVI and Cayman Islands when they visited London last year, but that the meetings did not take place.
“As discussed on the telephone on 24 March, we were due to meet in London yesterday with the other Overseas Territories to continue our dialogue about international standards on tackling all forms of illicit finance, and to focus on how we can work together to ensure companies cannot hide their beneficial ownership from law enforcement and tax authorities,” both the letters say.
They continue: “It is therefore deeply disappointing, despite numerous attempts, that we have not been able to meet collectively to discuss a way forward on effective implementation of the G20 Principles on beneficial ownership, despite our shared public commitment to do so.
“Meanwhile, the global debate on the importance of raising international standards to tackle money laundering, tax evasion, illicit finance and corruption has intensified.” [. . .]