Channel Islands respond to Paradise Papers

Posted: 09/11/2017

Leading figures across the Channel Islands have issued robust responses to recent media coverage of the so-called Paradise Papers, following the release of information from files belonging to law firm Appleby in Bermuda.

Gavin St PierGuernsey's Chief Minister, Deputy Gavin St Pier (right)

“The government of Guernsey has not been approached by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in relation to the so-called Paradise Papers. As such, I cannot comment on any specific stories emanating from the material. 

“Nevertheless, given that the coverage is misleading, sensationalist and simplistic, I do not believe that Guernsey, as a leading international financial centre, should leave such nonsense unchallenged.

“The name ‘Paradise Papers’ has been coined by those who are handling what appears to be stolen data to give an air of respectability to what they're doing.

“This media coverage has very little to do with tax or morality. It is about privacy; this is a well-orchestrated, ongoing campaign to promote an agenda about gaining public access to private financial information. 

“And we're not just talking about the super-rich, although obviously those individuals generate the headlines. This is about private financial information for each and every one of us. 

“We are all entitled to our privacy, but what Guernsey does is share that private financial information with tax and law enforcement authorities - in other words, with those who need to know.

“Taxpayers, both here and in the UK, need to know that this is no accident timing-wise. The Council of EU finance ministers met today in Brussels, and now senior politicians and officials are clamouring to virtuously say how important it is that the UK cleans up its act with its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. 

“However, the factual position is that Guernsey is an integral part of the UK's financial services industry, which is the strongest in Europe if not the world, and the stolen data campaign serves the EU's protectionist agenda particularly.

“What we all need is a level playing field, which the OECD is seeking to produce and Guernsey fully endorses. We need global rules which are objectively and consistently applied.

“Guernsey has had review after review of our jurisdiction in terms of international standards and on all occasions we have passed with flying colours. We will continue that commitment to international standards, and hope that at some point that the EU, and others, recognises Guernsey's ongoing commitment and uses us an exemplar, rather than castigating us for playing by the rules.”

Dominic WheatleyGuernsey Finance CEO Dominic Wheatley 

“The release of the stolen documents is an illegal hack of files and unacceptable. The sensationalist reporting is deliberately designed to undermine the legitimate business acts of offshore centres.

“The coverage has attempted to portray that a lack of transparency exists in offshore finance centres, but in the case of Guernsey that is simply not true. Early adoption of global initiatives such as the Common Reporting Standard evidences our long-standing commitment to global standards of transparency and information exchange – standards that have been endorsed by the likes of the OECD, the EU and the IMF.

“Privacy and valuing client confidentiality as we do in Guernsey should not be conflated with secrecy. Indeed, we are completely committed to making available verified and accurate data in a timely manner to appropriate tax and criminal investigative authorities. The establishment of our central register of beneficial ownership earlier this year, put Guernsey in line with the very highest standards in the world in this regard.

“At the same time, it’s important to note Guernsey is one of the few places to regulate trust and corporate services providers and was among the first to do so, in 2000. This strong fiduciary regulation has ensured higher service standards and protection for consumers. It has also provided a mechanism to reinforce our anti-money laundering (AML) regime and ensure that comprehensive information on the source of funds and the identities of ultimate beneficial owners of such structures are always obtained and kept up to date.”

Government of Jersey

‘Jersey does not want abusive tax avoidance schemes operating in the island and expects financial services providers to abide by a voluntary code to say they will not take on this kind of business.

‘If this proves to be such business, we will consider how to strengthen our arrangements, if necessary by amending our legislation to introduce a substance test.

‘It is not satisfactory for a foreign registered company to claim tax residence in Jersey without demonstrating a substance here.

‘These allegations will be investigated and we are asking the ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) to provide all relevant documents to support this action.’

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