Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuesday February 10, 2015 – Note has been taken of the various unfortunate statements made by UK Opposition Labour Party Leader the Rt. Hon. Edward Miliband as quoted recently in a number of the UK Media Channels where he charges that the UK Overseas Territories are not complying with UK directives as it relates to beneficial ownership of companies and public central registries of beneficial ownership of companies.
It must first be stated that as Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, I have yet to receive or have sight of any correspondence from the UK Labour Leader in respect of this subject at hand or any other subject. However, I note the letter of Chief Minister Picardo of Gibraltar to Mr. Miliband and wish to align, in most parts, the Turks and Caicos Islands’ position with that of Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, and that of the Overseas Territories that stand in solidarity on this issue.
The Turks and Caicos Islands Government takes exception to the statement made by Mr. Miliband, in referring to our jurisdiction as a “Tax Haven”. The Turks and Caicos Islands is a well regulated and compliant financial services jurisdiction that has complied with the FATF Standards, Global Forum Standards and have signed numerous Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs), including the US-FATCA, UK-FATCA and multilateral agreement on automatic exchange of information in Berlin on 29 October 2014, among numerous others agreements.
The Turks and Caicos Islands, represented by the Deputy Premier in June 2014, along with other UK OT Leaders, supported the UK Prime Minister Cameron during his presidency of the G8 as the United Kingdom made commitments to improve transparency of information to combat tax evasion, money laundering and financing of terrorism. Prime Minister Cameron acted on his commitment and is progressing the establishment of a publicly available central registry of beneficial ownership of companies in the UK and is encouraging all of the UK OTs, which, Mr. Cameron emphatically stated are not tax havens, to follow suite.
In keeping with our joint UK/OTs commitment for transparency and to proactively combat illicit activities, the Turks and Caicos Islands devised an Action Plan and conducted a public consultation on the issues of maintenance of Legal and Beneficial Ownership information and the establishment of a Central or public Register of Beneficial Ownership information. This consultation was recently concluded and the Turks and Caicos Islands Cabinet has reviewed the results.
It is the position of the Turks and Caicos Islands that we will continue to comply with all of the global standards as issued by FATF, Global Forum, AML Directives, G20 Principles and we will continue to improve our systems, in ways that support sound business growth locally and globally. However, until such time as there is global agreement on appropriate exemptions and safeguards, and a public central registry becomes the internationally practiced standard, the Turks and Caicos Islands will continue to follow its current regime.
Perhaps it would have been more helpful to these Turks and Caicos Islands and other Overseas Territories for the Labour Leader to have sought an audience with the Leaders of the Overseas Territories during our many visits to the UK, the most recent being for the purpose of the Joint Ministerial Conference meeting during which meeting, the issue of beneficial ownership was of key debate. Such engagement would have allowed Mr. Miliband to familiarize himself with our jurisdictions, and perhaps he might have discovered that the OTs are not tax havens as he accuses, but, in fact, well and better regulated financial services jurisdictions than many larger jurisdictions. Mr. Miliband would have then been in a better position to more appropriately inform his party’s manifesto in support of assisting the Turks and Caicos Islands and other OTs economies, as one would expect of responsible leadership, rather than utilizing outdated and damaging descriptions that undermine the strident efforts made by OTs to date to meet and in some cases surpass internally accepted standards.
The Turks and Caicos Islands stands committed to support and implement any global transparency initiatives and directives that will combat tax evasion, money laundering and financing of terrorism, and welcome discussions with the UK as a part of the solidarity partnership among OTs on the eventual maintenance of a Central Registry, but this will be done cautiously and with sober thought to the appropriate level that the information should be made public. We must ensure that we are supporting law enforcement agencies and thwarting criminals, all while ensuring the sustainable growth and development of the Turks and Caicos Islands and the protection of the fundamental constitutional rights and privacy of the law abiding citizens and clients we serve.