GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) — Newly appointed Governor Martyn Roper has said he hopes the Cayman Islands will not be going it alone when it introduces a public register identifying the beneficial owners of companies and other financial entities, as the UK will be promoting this as a global standard.
There are international efforts now afoot to ensure transparency in the financial sector and to prevent misuse of these services, he told the media at his first press conference last week. This jurisdiction will therefore need to work with these initiatives, “be on the front foot and tackle risks with confidence”.
But he said it was important that everybody moves at the same speed towards public registers so Cayman will not be put at a competitive disadvantage.
“It is important that the Cayman Islands is able to compete and compete fairly and has the right to set its own rates of taxation,” he said, noting that the UK wants to see public registers become the global standard, so that when the public registers are established, all jurisdiction will have them.
“The UK’s role is to promote and push that so everybody can move together,” the governor said, adding that Britain feels it is very important that the Crown Dependencies and other countries move at the same speed. “We want that to happen before the Cayman Islands has to introduce a beneficial ownership register.”
Roper said there was time to talk this through and work out how best to protect the local industry. He said that the time line about the potential order in council was still under discussion and it would be an important topic of discussion at the forthcoming Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council before the end of the year.
The governor said that he sees it as his job to help London understand Cayman’s position and help protect the local financial sector.
The recently passed Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act in the UK mandates that all British Overseas Territories with financial services industries, including Cayman, introduce public registers before 2020 or have them imposed via the order in council.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has described this as constitutional overreach, and has said that Cayman will not introduce a register that is publicly accessible unless and until every competing jurisdiction has one.
The Cayman Islands government therefore plans to fight this in the court, as McLaughlin believes that the constitution does not provide for the British parliament to legislate for Cayman when it comes to domestic policy. To prevent the UK doing this again, he is seeking talks to remove or re-write the section of the constitution that appears to give the UK powers that could go beyond its reserve areas.
At the press briefing the governor said that the UK is willing to discuss the constitution, although the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has made it clear that it feels the current balance between Britain and Cayman set out in the 2009 constitution is correct.