British Virgin Islands

Thursday, Oct 29, 2020

Fresh criticism of UK MPs for lobbying after free CI trip

Fresh criticism of UK MPs for lobbying after free CI trip

Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, a strong advocate for transparency in the British Overseas Territories and a vocal critic of offshore financial centres, has levelled fresh criticism on two Tory MPs who enjoyed a free trip to the Cayman Islands in June, paid for by the local government to the tune of £17,000. Sir Graham Brady and Sir Michael Fallon visited Cayman in June for our constitutional celebrations, which Buzzfeed News described a “lavish junket”.

The two Conservative MPs have said they will support the Cayman government in its fight with the UK over the enforced implementation of beneficial ownership registers. This is a controversial topic in the UK, where Cayman and other offshore financial centres are often accused of facilitating corruption, money laundering, tax evasion and other illicit financial activities resulting from their privacy laws.

In May last year the House of Lords passed the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act in the UK, which mandates that all British Overseas Territories with financial services industries, including Cayman, introduce public registers before 2020 or have them imposed via an order in council.

Financial Services Minister Tara Rivers met with Dame Hodge in November 2017 in an effort to persuade her that Cayman meets international standards and is not involved in money laundering. However, the prominent MP appears to be unconvinced.

She told BuzzFeed News, “The only reason for giving these MPs a free trip was to encourage them to thwart and oppose the will of Parliament, where there is a strong majority in favour of open registers of beneficial ownership.” She added, “There is a simple reason for our wanting this transparency. Transparency is a powerful tool in stopping money laundering and tax evasion. All UK MPs should support this move.”

Brady, who until recently was chair of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, and Fallon, the former defence secretary, came to Cayman as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Cayman Islands, as Cayman marked the 60th anniversary of its first constitution. Brady’s wife travelled with him and the members’ register of interest shows that he claimed £10,459 from the public coffers here, while Fallon’s bill was £6,217.99.

Both politicians said clearly when they were here that they would back Cayman in London. Brady told the local media that it was important to make the case for a sensible balance that protects the rights and the safety of individuals who might be exposed to danger from open registers. He also said the UK government needed to recognise the “great steps forward” Cayman had made, as well as its spirit of engagement.

Dame Hodge, the former chair of the UK Public Accounts Committee, said that most people in the UK would be “shocked that two senior members of Parliament accepted expensive free trips to a British tax haven”.

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Quote of the Day

That post exemplifies the root of the problem - a historical legacy of centuries of propaganda based on the premise of European racial supremacy. It portrays the white colonial master that is the savior to the ever thankful poor black slave. Thank God, I’m an emancipated African - and I don’t worship at the feet of white gods - the Queen or the Governor, who are simply relics of outmoded colonialism built on the tenets of racist institutions of white supremacy that colonized and enslaved Africans for centuries.

As Bob Marley said, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” because sometimes, “shit is just shit!”

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