Bermuda Prime Minister on the BBC: We won’t move on secrecy until the UK and US deliver first

Bermuda news has an audio clip of an astonishing BBC interview with Bermuda’s Prime Minister Craig Cannonier and Murray Worthy of War on Want.

Cannonier was in London for the annual meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council. Murray Worthy and the interviewer try to pin Cannonier down and make some excellent points, but the PM is clearly ready for the interview and keeps returning to his prepared messages.

He seems to have 4 main speaking points:

 1. We are tiny, we are not to blame for the way the global economy works and we are being unfairly treated

“We are part of a food chain…how google does what it does is though double taxation treaties through Ireland. We cannot change the global economy”

“Bermuda has 60.000 people…we don’t have the power to change the global economy”

Asked why Bermuda was put on a blacklist of non-cooperative jurisdictions by France, he responds:

“Untrue…Bermuda feels that it was unfairly labeled in this situation, and we’ll get to the bottom of that”.

2. Without the financial services industry we will be poor

“What do you expect for Bermuda to do with its economy? Do you want us to fish? What do you want us to do? Do you want us to have farms? We don’t have the land for that.”

“I think it is foolish, because you would be plunging countries like Bermuda and the Cayman into poverty.”

3. Individuals and corporations are to blame for tax evasion, not offshore tax systems

“Google doesn’t pay tax in the UK, and it doesn’t pay tax in Bermuda…if you can find them, I’d like for them to pay tax in Bermuda as well”

In Bermuda “corporations pay a payroll tax and a duty tax…they do pay tax”

“Just because we name our tax differently doesn’t mean that we don’t have tax”

Speaking points 1 and 3 are also combined, as in:

“We don’t create individuals that violate (sic) tax avoidance…evasion. The concentration really needs to be on the individuals and organizations who are evading tax. We need to go after them. But for you to try and impose on Bermuda and other countries, to try and decide how they raise revenue, quite frankly, is astounding to me.”

4. The US and UK have to set the example and we won’t do anything until they do

“I think you’re barking up the wrong tree, I think you need to talk to the UK first, I think you need to talk to the US first, that’s where the real power is.”

Asked about David Cameron’s commitment to public registries of beneficial ownership, Cannonier first tries to deny the commitment and then moves on to questioning whether registries will actually be implemented, saying “…it won’t get done. When they go, we will go”.

Pressed on whether this is a commitment to implement public registries if the UK does,  Cannonier raises the bar by adding the US:

“When the UK and the US go, we will go…right now, there isn’t a register, and until that happens, the other nations won’t be able to commit to it”.

His last point is that it will be very difficult for the UK to implement its commitment:  “I know the commitment has been made in voice, we want to see it in action”.

The article with audio embedded is here, the audio clip is here (7.51 minutes).

Some additional notes:

– Bermuda has a secrecy score of 80 and is ranked 14th on the 2013 Financial Secrecy Index. It also has a 14% share of the global reinsurance market.  

– In September, David Cameron said “I do not think it is fair any longer to refer to any of the overseas territories or Crown dependencies as tax havens”

– As reported by the Treasure Islands blog, a recent offshore industry survey found that “public relations” is the number one industry choice to enhance its image in future.

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