Cayman: Premier to update UK on beneficial ownership

Premier Alden McLaughlin is in London this week to meet with leaders of law firms, financial institutions, government departments and U.K. Members of Parliament, reports Cayman Compass.

The Premier will use the trip to update Overseas Territories Minister Baroness Joyce Anelay on the territory’s progress toward creating a centralized platform for sharing beneficial ownership information on Cayman companies with U.K. authorities.

Three bills were passed Monday which pave the way for the creation of a searchable registry, moving the Cayman Islands closer to compliance with its agreement with the U.K. The Assembly will break until after the Premier’s return on March 8.

Mr. McLaughlin, during his six day trip to the U.K., will also meet with a new parliamentary group and deliver the keynote speech at a conference at Blackstone Chambers, a set of barristers chambers that specializes in commercial and public law and financial services.

In a press release Tuesday, he highlighted the trip as a chance to promote Cayman’s international image.

“This will give me an opportunity to say what the Cayman Islands has done in respect of having an advanced bill of rights, an independent judiciary, anti-corruption provisions and how our government has worked to enact and enforce laws against money-laundering and tax evasion. The trip will also give us another opportunity to reaffirm our stable, diversified and growing economy and the great opportunities that exist to invest and live in the Cayman Islands.”

Opposition leader McKeeva Bush questioned the timing of the visit in the midst of the Cayman Islands last Legislative Assembly session of the government’s current term and with numerous bills and motions on the table.

Mr. Bush, who has criticized moves toward creation of a beneficial ownership registry for Cayman companies, said “So the Premier has shut the Assembly down for over a week, so that the PPM masters here can go to its masters in London to bask and receive its approbation for being nice fellas and now members of the club …

“This is really unconscionable to break the house in this manner, and for what purpose? To go to London weeks before a general election, after the PPM government has passed a law to dismantle our confidential laws that made us a haven for conducting good clean business they couldn’t do onshore.”

In a speech in the assembly on Monday, Mr. Bush suggested Cayman’s new laws on beneficial ownership had been drafted at the direction of politicians in London to suit the U.K.’s agenda, and were not in the best interests of Cayman.

During his time as Premier, Mr. Bush said, he had only “shut down the assembly” for good reason, and only then in the face of complaints from accusations against him from then-opposition members, including Mr. McLaughlin.

In a press statement, Mr. McLaughlin characterized the visit as a chance to promote the Cayman Islands as a responsible jurisdiction and a good place to do business.

He will address the Blackstone Chambers Conference Friday on the topic “Current Issues in Rule of Law and International Trade and Development.”

The conference will be chaired by Blackstone Chambers’ Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC.

Other guest speakers include Michael Llamas, Attorney General of Gibraltar; Justice Angelica Nussberger, Section President and German Judge on the European Court of Human Rights; and Justice Catherine O’Regan, former member of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at Oxford, according to a government press release.

On Monday Mr. McLaughlin will attend the first meeting of the Cayman Islands All Party Parliamentary Group, which will be hosted by MP Graham Brady.

The Premier hopes that MPs in the group can get a “better understanding” of the islands and help champion Cayman’s cause in the halls of Westminster.

“This is one more opportunity to tell the good story that is Cayman’s to MPs and Peers,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “Our economy continues to improve, with the private sector continuing to invest in the Cayman Islands. That new investment is a direct result of the confidence of business in our country.”

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