The Tax Justice Network website is an essential resource when tracking the secrecy jurisdiction media, providing context and analysis which make what initially seems minor offshore news surprisingly relevant.
David Cameron’s comment that “I do not think it is fair any longer to refer to any of the overseas territories or Crown dependencies as tax havens” has gathered extensive coverage in secrecy jurisdiction press. Here are a few examples:
The Gibraltar Chronicle has a statement from the leaders of Overseas Territories – who were meeting in Gibraltar last week – saying: “Our territories are well regulated, independent financial services jurisdictions, and play an integral role in facilitating global business. We will continue to lead on meeting international standards of tax and transparency”
International Adviser says that Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man “revel” in Cameron’s “not tax havens” comments.
Additionally, in Jersey Cameron’s comments were seen as an endorsement in the same week as a visit by the Lord Mayor of London, while in Guernsey the finance industry is preparing promotional events in Asia.
Cayman Finance said that “the transparency of the Cayman Islands financial services industry that had been built over the past four decades was finally being recognized.”
“…we believe it is about time Cayman starts to receive some credit,” said Gonzalo Jalles, CEO of Cayman Finance.
In Bermuda coverage picked up comments from Cameron during the parliamentary debate in which he said: “For many years, Luxembourg and Austria have held up progress on this issue. They have often tried to get round that by pointing to the overseas territories and Crown dependencies of the UK, which have now put their house in order, so we can turn back to Austria and Luxembourg.” The whole exchange can be found on the Parliament.uk website; Cameron was responding to Jack Straw.
The Bermuda News website also linked back to comments by Finance Minister Bob Richards in June of 2013, saying that Overseas Territories are being used as “scapegoats and distractions from domestic policies and domestic policy failures.”
So far there seems to have been very limited coverage of Cameron’s comments in the UK and international press.
Yesterday media in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar were reporting that the leaders of the British Overseas Territories are meeting in Gibraltar this week. It didn’t seem worth mentioning at the time, as there was little information on the substance of the meeting. In hindsight, the fact that 10 British MPs including the Liberal Democrat deputy leader were also attending should perhaps have warranted a closer look.
“Delighted that the OTs and Crown Dependencies are delivering on the tax and transparency commitments they made before the G8 summit”
This evening, Richard Murphy at Tax Research is reporting that David Cameron has said the following: “I do not think it is fair any longer to refer to any of the overseas territories or Crown dependencies as tax havens.” Which is, as Murphy says, absolutely absurd.
The timing of this statement from Cameron cannot be a coincidence: the Overseas Territories lobby has done it again.
I will leave the last word to Valirie (sic). Under the brief article on the Gibraltar meeting in the Bermuda Royal Gazette, she wrote:
” So much has been made of Bermuda being the president of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association – UKOTA, yet the unity of this organisation was sadly and badly lacking when facing the disingenuousness of David Cameron’s tax haven curve ball.
This organisation must demonstrate, in one voice, cohesiveness, the willingness to stand up to UK bullying and the bad faith of the UK Conservative Government.”
Gibraltar has been in the news over the last couple of weeks, partly because of delays during border controls leading to diplomatic sparring between the UK and Spain, and partly because of a new proposed tax on its online gaming industry.
According to the Gibraltar Chronicle, the online gaming industry is considering legal action against this “unpopular” tax, with the support of the Gibraltar government:
“…the question of a legal challenge against the UK move continues to be considered by all affected parties in Gibraltar.”
“…the Gibraltar Government last night made clear it remained a priority to “address the design and impact of this legislation” on the Rock.”
Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association said: “We knew it was coming … The focus for us now is on trying to get the actual rate of the tax reduced.”
The Remote Gambling Association website (“Safe, Fun, Fair, Honest”) includes a fact sheet on taxation which states:
“The Members of the RGA are remote gambling companies with European and sometimes other licences who operate in a highly competitive international environment. Their business models have been developed to provide maximum value for consumers and do not provide margins for high levels of taxation.”