Offshore

IFCs Line Up To Stress Compliance Credentials Amid Panama Saga

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, 7 April 2016

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As the affair of the "Panama Papers" continued, offshore jurisdictions stressed their work to stay in line with regulations.

More jurisdictions are lining up to insist their standards of conduct should not be tainted by the scandal surrounding the massive leak of data from Panama. The saga has put politicians and IFCs in the firing line.

Jersey Finance, the organisation representing Jersey’s banking, wealth and related sectors, said authorities on the island have full knowledge on the beneficial owners of structures set up there. The comments came from Geoff Cook, Jersey Finance’s chief executive.

A statement from financial authorities in Bahamas, meanwhile, said the jurisdiction was compliant and operated under global regulatory standards. Earlier this week, Guernsey, a rival to Jersey, said it pushed for the highest standards of conduct and transparency. 

The Panama affair has sent a chill through much of the offshore world and the disclosure of a vast trove of data has already caused a political storm in countries such as the UK and Iceland, among others. The late father of current UK prime minister David Cameron at one stage is reported to have had a Panama-related company. Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned after the revelations about his personal finances. UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for direct UK rule over certain jurisdictions with ties to the UK. 
 
“The Panama Papers challenge the use of offshore companies to hide the identities of the ultimate company owners - the beneficial owners. Jersey’s position on hiding the identities of beneficial owners is very clear: we do not allow it. Jersey has captured beneficial ownership information on a corporate registry since 1999 and this enables Jersey to provide law enforcement and tax authorities with ‘adequate, accurate and timely’ data - the specific requirement of Recommendation 24 of the FATF Recommendations,” Jersey Finance’s Cook said in a statement. (He was referring to the Financial Action Task Force, a government-backed group seeking to draw up standards to crush dirty money flows.)

“Where there is found to be illicit or fraudulent activity in any country anywhere in the world, it is absolutely right that it should be challenged and investigated,” he continued. “There have been a lot of allegations and speculation reported regarding Mossack Fonseca and the so called ‘Panama Papers’. Although Mossack Fonseca has a small office in Jersey, there is no suggestion that any illegal activity has taken place on the island or involved Jersey-registered companies,” he said.

Bahamas
In the Bahamas, the Minister of Financial Services, Hope Strachan, said.: “This [Panama] leak challenges the work and validity of international financial centres. We are following the development of this investigation closely. The Bahamas is a compliant jurisdiction, operating under international regulatory standards.

“It must be reiterated that the Bahamas has been deemed compliant by the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes. Further, the Bahamas has committed to the implementation of the automatic exchange of information/OECD CRS [Common Reporting Standard] using a bilateral approach that is fully endorsed by the OECD,” it said.

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