#TurksandCaicos, May 04, 2018 – Providenciales – It should be no surprise to observers of history that the Overseas Territories constitutional relationship with the UK has been subjugated in a political compromise between the minority government of Theresa May and the diverse parliamentary groups to secure the passage of the new Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill passed by the UK Parliament on May 1 in exchange for mandatory establishment of public registries of beneficial interest by 2020.
The will of colonial peoples have always been political fodder In the UK geopolitical interest as reflected in the famous oration by Viscount Lord Palmerston 1784-1865, Foreign Secretary and two-time Prime Minister under Queen Victoria that “Britain had no eternal allies and no perpetual enemies, only interest that were eternal and perpetual.” And so, history has once again repeated itself and the interest of the Overseas Territories has been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency to achieve legislative consensus in bringing sanctions to bear against Russia.
The decision by the UK Parliament on the one hand affirmed the principle of consensus democracy as it relates to the UK special interest; while on the other hand admittedly “disenfranchises the elected representatives of the Overseas Territories who do not have a voice in the UK Parliament.” This is especially egregious given that it reflects a traditional bias in favour of Crown Dependencies tilting the playing field in their favour. The alarming Ignorance of reality in the Overseas Territories by members of UK Parliament has been costly, and this most recent decision in the words of Alan Duncan himself will potentially create hardship for them.
The decision is clearly not evidence based and indeed the evidence provided by the UK itself as reflected by Alan Duncan statement asserts that the Overseas Territories now generally have “central registers or similarly effective systems …… that enable UK law enforcement authorities to establish the ultimate owner of companies registered in the Overseas Territories……The commitments they have made in the exchanges of notes with the UK exceed current Financial Action Task Force standards and put them ahead of most jurisdictions, including many of our G20 partners and some states in the United States.” This contradicts the notion of UK parliamentarians that the Overseas Territories are tax havens for robber barons, tax evaders, fraudsters, drug runners and funders of terror. Indeed, there is more evidence that the UK itself is a haven for ill-gotten wealth.
While the Turks and Caicos Islands offshore financial sector is not as significant a part of our economy compared with that of the Cayman Islands or the BVI we have recently passed a new Companies Ordinance which establishes a central registry albeit not public; and plans are ongoing to continue the modernisation of legislation to make the jurisdiction more competitive. In addition, a review of the industry by KPMG is expected to be completed during the month of May together with recommendations for the expansion of the Offshore financial services sector.
Therefore, two sequential and immediate actions are necessary to any future strategy to grow the financial services sector to maintain equilibrium between income and costs.
- TCIG should move post haste to publicly identify itself with the sentiments of those recently expressed by the Cayman Islands, BVI and Gibraltar in a show of solidarity.
- Second and more importantly all stakeholders including the government, opposition and the private sector must as a matter of urgency convene a meeting to examine the options available to the TCI in a rational and dispassionate way. Given the TCI low profile in this sector there may well be an upside that may be used to our advantage. A win for the Turks and Caicos Islands regardless to who are the architect is a win for all of us, but the discovery of that win requires vision and collaboration.