News from Anguilla
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LATEST NEWS FROM ANGUILLA....
A handful of people, (some the usual suspects, others pretty well known) got busted for the alleged possession of a controlled substance. This got the local rumour mill working overtime last weekend. Presumably all will be revealed when they come up before the bench. Rumours also linked this activity to the unfortunate disappearance and subsequent recovery of the body of a fairly well-known 31-year old Anguillian man. The Deputy Commissioner of Police has been playing a lot of this down, partly out of concern for the feelings of the family and friends of the man. Again, the truth will come out with the autopsy, being carried out this weekend.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch . The Chief Minister, Osbourne Fleming, and Minister of Finance, Victor Banks, both described their recent trip to London as being very successful. As mentioned before, for whatever reason, Anguilla did not get too much assistance from the U.K. after the passage of Hurricane "Lenny", so, the local Exchequer has not been able to afford the kind of repairs that would otherwise be considered essential. The Anguilla Ministers held bilateral talks on 5 April with top officials from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID - the former ODA) in an apparent cordial atmosphere. The Ministers put Anguillas case and, for their efforts, received budgetary aid assistance in the region of $13 million (presumably E.C.!). Additionally, the island will be able to share in allocation for regional projects covering all of the Overseas Territories (O.T.s). Furthermore, they had the opportunity to table a number of possible projects from the "Good Government" funds Anguilla has already received a commitment, in principle, in this area, for the Constitution and Electoral Reform Project; hopefully, when completed, the farcical constitutional gridlock endured by the island in the latter part of 1999 and until the recent election will be a thing of memory. The Government also received a firm commitment for discussions to be held on the island during the week of 12 June for a Country Policy Plan, when a team of technical officials will meet with the Government and senior officers to have specific talks for a 3-year aid package. It is expected that anyone reading this message who is a U.K. taxpayer will be making the necessary arrangements to put in plenty of overtime over the next few years to pay for all of this! Seriously folks, the funds will be put to a good use, as mentioned in the last issue.
Earlier in the week, the Ministers attended a Conference at which various ministers represented all O.T.s, as well as officials from France, Holland, the FCO, DFID, the Commonwealth Development Corporation, U.K. Treasury and Inland Revenue. The main agenda point was to review progress on the partnership between the U.K. and the O.T.s. A wide range of issues came up but of specific local interest were the challenges facing small island economies,, the future of the Financial Services Sector, e-commerce (you may recall the press release on this sent out separately a couple of weeks ago) and the opportunities these afford to small jurisdictions. A network of future support and sharing of experiences among the O.T.s was established.
Also, as mentioned in the last issue, Marcel Fahie (Permanent Secretary, Economic Development and Planning) and John Lawrence (Director of Financial Services) attended the inaugural U.N. Offshore Plenary Forum on money-laundering. 36 delegates represented mostly Caribbean and Pacific offshore jurisdictions (as well as officials from the U.S., Canada and the U.K.). They returned home with a regulatory framework to combat this financial crime. The forum comes against a backdrop of the U.S. Treasury considering new legislation to target offshore financial jurisdictions or banks that "pose a threat to the U.S. in fighting criminals and laundering money", said organiser Pino Arlacchi, of the U.N.s Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP). U.S. officials estimate that as much as $600 billion passes through world financial centres each year as "laundered" money. The U.N. Offshore Forum is also arguably an appeasement to the current, serious OECD initiative that seeks to identify "harmful" tax jurisdictions and have them eliminated or brought into line with OECD banking regulations. Arlacchi charged that "many offshore financial jurisdictions have long been havens for individuals trying to evade taxes in their homelands, corrupt politicians and government officials stashing money skimmed from foreign aid programmes and drug cartels washing cash from Americas streets." (But apart from that ..!)
This past week, as called for in the White Paper, Anguillas financial services legislative and regulatory structure was examined by a four man KPMG team from Leeds, UK. They examined Anguillas legislative and regulatory framework to ascertain the extent to which it adheres to internationally accepted standards including the FATFs 40 and CFATF 19 Recommendations, Basel Committee on Banking Supervision Core Principles, IAIS standards of insurance regulation and where trusts and company formation are concerned, international good practice. The Terms of Reference of the exercise provide for an in-depth independent review by experts to assess progress made in the regulation of the financial services sector, and to make further recommendations on areas to be brought up to standard. At the end of the exercise, the review will have stated where the Overseas Territories (OTs) are in terms of their compliance with international standards and if they arent fully compliant, the areas that need to be addressed and recommendations on how to achieve such compliance. Specifically, the exercise will cover 5 areas: Regulation of Banking and Insurance; Regulation of Companies, Partnerships and Trusts; Independent Regulatory Authorities; International Cooperation; and Measures to combat money laundering. In each area, Anguillas compliance will be assessed against the relevant standard. I attended a couple of meetings with them one as part of a small group from the Executive Committee of the Anguilla Financial Services Association (AFSA), the other as an ordinary practising member, at a workshop attended by senior bankers, police officers and other service providers. To an extent there was an overlap between the two meetings. In response to a question I raised, the team preferred that the documents and discussions be kept reasonably confidential and that discretion be exercised otherwise. So here are some of the non-contentious points.
First, they said that they were not doing this series of exercises (6 reports will be presented, covering Bermuda, Turks & Caicos (TCI), B.V.I., Cayman, Anguilla & Montserrat), with any pre-conceived ideas nor according to any agenda put out by the U.S. or the U.K. Rather, each jurisdiction would be judged according to a benchmark of international standards. There are two 4-man teams handling the data-mining and discussions for the jurisdictions, each with considerable expertise in these fields. There is also a strategic committee, made up of experts (past regulators of the S.E.C. and various territories for example) who act as a sort or peer group; they are not employed by KPMG. This way the report will be robust enough to withstand any scrutiny. Draft reports will be sent to the steering committee (on which Anguilla, in the form of John Lawrence, our Director of Financial Services, is represented; he also acts as the representative for TCI and Montserrat), which will then discuss them with the jurisdictions for possible further improvement or refinement (in response to another question I asked at the workshop, John Lawrence confirmed that it would be the intention of the Anguilla Government to seek the input, where appropriate, of the private sector). The report and recommendations are due to be made available by the end of June. It is not known to the extent that they may be made public. Such an objective review may go some way to assure the promoters of the initiatives of the supra-nationals, such as the OECD, of the bona fides of the territories. They also noted that each jurisdiction is unique and therefore it is inappropriate in cases to cross-reference, say, Anguilla with Bermuda. For example, in Bermuda it is mandatory that the identity of every beneficial owner of any entity is maintained on a central (government) database and any change involving 5% of the beneficial ownership of a company has to be reported See? You learn something new every day! This is something that the promoters of Bermuda certainly have not been shouting from the rooftops. Apparently this is a knock-on requirement from the time when Bermuda was a more pre-eminent ship registry. As KPMG pointed out, this would not be workable in Tortola, B.V.I., where over 50,000 IBCs were incorporated in 1999. So a one-size-fits-all approach could never work. Various ideas got bounced around. One concerned possible repeal of The Confidentiality Relationships Ordinance (the one where disclosure of a clients activity etc. can result in the service provider being jailed or fined). After everyone had had their say and stopped shuddering, it was pointed out that B.V.I. does not have one (bet you didnt know that either!), the client would still be protected by civil law i.e. client-attorney privilege and its purpose would be defeated anyway by the proposed proceeds of Criminal Conduct Ordinance as well as various MLATs. Another issue concerned the use of bearer shares for IBCs, a matter of general concern for various reasons: it was suggested that, as a compromise, there would be a requirement for an address (overseas) where service of documents could be made. For example a bank or trust company, which could accept the documents (and pass them on to the owner of the company). Most practitioners though do not allow bearer shares to be floating around, nor do they permit general powers of attorney (another matter brought up). Throughout the offshore world, too, we can expect pressure for the mandatory disclosure of the directors of IBCs. In Anguilla it is optional at the moment and Anguilla has no problem with the concept as long as there is a level playing field (Bahamas have already passed similar legislation but there, again, they will not be doing it until everyone else is).
CLIPPINGS FROM MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS
As is always the case, the following contains material which is courtesy of various publications (who also hold the Copyright) please contact them for subscriptions:
First, more on the U.K. Fiscal Information Requirement initiative (as opposed to the taxation of savings proposed by EU ministers), from The Financial Times
UK wins support on savings tax,
European Union efforts to end evasion of taxation on savings income have entered a new phase as several finance ministers welcomed British proposals for a system based on exchange of information, instead of controversial plans for a minimum 20 per cent withholding tax on non-resident savings. However, the shift in the debate at an informal weekend meeting of EU finance ministers opened up new rifts, with Luxembourg and Austria rejecting UK demands that exchange of information about investors' interest income among tax authorities must mean an end to banking secrecy in EU member states.
By convincing fellow ministers of Britain's determination to crack down on EU-wide tax evasion, Gordon Brown, the UK chancellor of the exchequer, effectively ended Britain's isolation from its EU partners in long running negotiations on a package of tax coordination measures for the EU. "The debate is moving to exchange of information and how it should be implemented," Mr Brown said.
The change in climate was highlighted by Hans Eichel, Germany's finance minister, who hailed the UK step as a sign that Britain was no longer seeking to block progress because of its overriding aim of protecting London's $3,000bn international bond market. "The debate was different to that in Helsinki," said Mr Eichel, referring to the acrimonious discussion on tax coordination among finance ministers at last December's EU summit. "In Helsinki, we had the impression that many were discussing (the tax package) with the sole object of preventing it. I didn't have that impression here."
However, in separate comments, Mr Eichel, Mr Brown and Joaquim Pina Moura, the Portuguese finance minister who chaired the meeting, refused to predict a successful conclusion to the tax negotiations in time for the next summit meeting of EU leaders in Oporto in June. Negotiations will be taken forward by a high level group of junior ministers, which will consider the UK proposals at its next meeting in May. The resistance to the British plans was underlined by Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg finance minister and prime minister, who stressed that his country would not allow banking secrecy to end. Clearly disenchanted with the weekend talks, he pointed out that finance ministers had agreed in December 1997 on a so-called co-existence model for taxing savings income. This approach, which provided member states with the option of either levying a withholding tax or instituting information exchange, had been backed at the December's Helsinki summit, he insisted.
Hinting that Luxembourg might use the national veto to block information exchange if that threatened bank secrecy, he said any collapse of the tax negotiations would be the responsibility of those who had abandoned the coexistence model. Mr Juncker conceded Luxembourg would have to give up banking secrecy if all other nations in the world adopted information exchange. "But that situation doesn't exist," he said.
Additional reporting by Peter Wise
This from the same source, a bit more salacious .
Wall St braced for unusual case
On Monday morning, in a court room in lower Manhattan, one of the most unusual insider trading cases to hit Wall Street is set to unfold. James J. McDermott, Jr, former chairman and chief executive of investment bank Keefe Bruyette & Woods, will defend himself against six counts of insider trading and one of conspiracy.
The charges allege Mr McDermott violated his fiduciary duties by passing confidential, non-public information to two other people, who in turn traded on the tips through internet accounts.
The case has drawn headlines because of one of the other two individuals involved. Kathryn B. Gannon, an adult-film star known as "Marylin Star" and one other man face similar charges with Mr McDermott for trading the stocks based on the inside information.
According to the indictment, the three realised more than $170,000 in profits by trading on information relating to six potential and actual mergers and acquisitions involving KBW clients.
The charges Mr McDermott and the others face date back to 1997 and 1998. Mr McDermott and Ms Gannon are alleged to have had an "intimate relationship" during which time he is said to have paid Ms Gannon $37,000 in cash.
What is likely to come from next week's trial is how the alleged leaks were passed and what Mr McDermott knew about Ms Gannon's trading activity. The indictment charges that a string of KBW clients, mainly regional or smaller banks such as Sun Trust and Central Fidelity Banks, were traded by Ms Gannon. All those banks were at the time targets of potential and actual merger and acquisition transactions or were the targets of similar kinds of deals by KBW clients.
The government's case is backed by the coincidences of timing. Ms Gannon and the second man in the case are charged with purchasing their banking shares at or near the time when the banks were placed on KBW's "watch list" as being a potential acquisition target or shortly before a public announcement for a merger deal involving the banks.
The McDermott case is one of two high-profile Wall Street insider trading cases involving the internet. Last month US authorities charged 19 individuals in the first case in which the internet was used to pass inside information. That case involves a temp-worker at Goldman Sachs who allegedly leaked confidential information to outsiders.
With privacy of internet information a hot topic of debate across the US, individuals are becoming increasingly aware that the web is far from the private, closed world they once considered. Information on the web is easily traced by authorities, even though the US government is increasingly under strain to keep up with the range of illicit possibilities of the internet. But the bigger concern, of course, is how much illicit financial activity is transferred through the internet that is not caught. The answer to that may never be known.
Same source .
Rival plans for US web tax
Two rival plans for deciding the future of cyber-taxation, one backed by a specially appointed government commission, the other backed by one of the US's largest lobbies, will be launched formally this week.
The battle pitches James Gilmore, Republican governor of Virginia and chairman of the e-commerce commission, against Michael Leavitt, Republican governor of Utah and chairman of the National Governor's Association (NGA), and a vast array of other local government groups. Local government officials say the internet's tax-free status will erode their budgets; dotcom entrepreneurs say taxing the internet will prevent its growth.
However, the issue does not split neatly along party lines and divisions run particularly deep in the historically pro-taxcutting Republican party. The plan from the e-commerce commission, to be presented to Congress on Wednesday, will propose a five-year extension of the current moratorium on "new and discriminatory" taxes on the internet.
The plan touted by the NGA also calls for an extension, until local states can simplify tax codes. Eighteen states have joined together already to simplify their laws.
Both the e-commerce commission plan and the NGA plan would allow sales tax, collected by companies based on the value of goods sold, to be imposed eventually. However, the two plans are at odds over so-called "nexus" standards. These determine what makes a company liable to collect taxes in a particular state - important for web-based businesses in states where owning a web server may make it responsible for collecting taxes. Current standards vary from state to state.
The e-commerce commission plan, known as the "business caucus" proposal, calls for "bright line" nexus laws which would hold companies with websites liable to collect sales tax only in states where they have a physical presence as defined by the new laws. But the NGA plan contends that no matter how clear the "bright line" standards are, they will be confusing and lead to an increase in the number of law suits.
The NGA says nexus concerns will be made redundant by tax code simplification. It says states should re-examine their policies.
Both sides agree in opposing Federal excise tax on telephony, currently at 3 per cent. While stopping short of calling for abolition, the NGA plan says "phasing out" of the tax is a "worthy" objective. The e-commerce commission recommends the Federal tax be abolished completely.
Digital goods such as music downloaded from the internet or Stephen King's recently released e-book are also a bone of contention between the two sides. Both sides agree that taxing these sales might cause a massive violation of the First Amendment because the government would be able to track every book bought by an individual.
The NGA says states should propose a system for taxing these goods which does not invade privacy before the end of 2003, whereas the commission suggests a digital tax should be prohibited.
Some of the following has been touched on earlier in this issue here it is in a bit more detail .
HUMAN SLAVE TRADERS PART OF MONEY LAUNDERING
Profiteers in the burgeoning human slave trade, drug smugglers and corrupt officials are washing hundreds of millions of dollars through the world's financial markets, delegates to a UN money laundering conference were told recently.
Offshore banking centres are now seeing more money from human slave traders who arrange transport for migrants and then force them to pay long after they arrive in new countries, said Pino Arlacchi of Italy, executive director of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.
"It is estimated up to 10 million international migrants are subjected to illegal practices of this type," said Arlacchi. "This traffic is so profitable even drug traffickers are beginning to switch to it."
The UN Offshore Forum Plenary, a gathering of finance regulators from more than 30 islands and colonies, met in Georgetown, Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands, with 590 banks and trust companies and more than $500 billion in assets, is the fifth largest banking centre in the world.
A UN official said many Caribbean offshore havens, including the Caymans, have taken measures to stem the flow of dirty money, causing it to shift elsewhere, especially to the Pacific.
UN officials hope to get many of the nations, such as Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands and some Caribbean laggards to sign on soon to a package of minimum performance standards for regulating their offshore financial industries.
INTERNATIONAL EFFORT TARGETS INTERNET SCAMS
The largest-ever international law enforcement project to fight fraud on the Internet is now a reality. A total of 150 organizations in 28 countries, including seven US federal agencies, 49 state and local consumer protection agencies and 39 Better Business Bureaus, are now sweeping the Internet in a coordinated fashion to try and flush out phony get-rich-quick schemes.
Fraud fighters from the UK to Uruguay, from Korea to Kansas and from Hong Kong to Texas have already collected and forwarded information to a US Federal Trade Commission database in Washington on more than 1,600 suspect sites.
Warning e-mails are now being sent to the targeted sites, with hyperlinks to consumer and business education materials at www.consumer.gov - a US government Web Site developed and hosted by the FTC that contains information for consumers from 140 federal government Web sites.
Law enforcement officials said they would monitor the sites and take steps to shut them down if they refuse to comply with the law. "If these bad actors can use this new technology to deceive consumers, we can use it to catch them," said Jodie Bernstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
BAHAMIAN IBCS FACE INCREASED DISCLOSURE
The Bahamian government is considering forcing international business companies to become more transparent.
Sir William Allen, the Bahamian minister of finance, said recently that rules governing IBCs in the Bahamas "do not allow sufficient regulation and control."
That means once closely guarded information such as the identity of major company stakeholders could soon become public.
Allen said he has asked the financial services sector and the central bank to review IBC legislation and expects to have recommendations shortly.
There are currently more than 106,000 IBCs in the Bahamas, and 16,000 are added every year, according to the country's registrar-general. The offshore financial sector represents about 15% of the Bahamas gross domestic product.
FINANCIAL WATCHDOG TO STEP UP OFFSHORE SUPERVISION
Unregulated offshore tax havens pose a serious threat to the stability of the global financial system and should be pressured to adopt more rigorous reporting standards, Canada's financial watchdog says. John Palmer, Superintendent of Financial Institutions, recently headed the Stability Forum, an international working group on offshore financial centres, which concluded that the International Monetary Fund should lead an effort to improve regulatory oversight of secretive tax havens.
Palmer was referring to situations such as the near-collapse of the giant US-based Long Term Capital Management, a highly leveraged financial institution, which threatened to throw the global financial system into convulsions during the recent Asian crisis.
Palmer said the federal regulator would also step up its supervision of the offshore activities of Canadian financial institutions to buttress its case for more aggressive action by foreign governments.
He added that increased supervision would also assist the international fight against money laundering and tax fraud.
However, Finance Minister Paul Martin pointed out that smaller offshore centres should not be singled out when tax havens in Europe exist and operate in a similar fashion.
ECONOMIC OVERHAUL NEEDED, SAY BUSINESS LEADERS
Two Canadian chief executives in five believe their company head offices will leave Canada in the next 10 years if the government does not introduce broad social and economic reforms to keep the nation prosperous, says the leadership of the Business Council on National Issues.
The leaders criticize the current Liberal government for failing to make deeper cuts in personal and corporate income taxes and not dealing more aggressively with the national debt.
The leaders, including David O'Brien of Canadian Pacific Ltd., Jean Monty of BCE Inc. and John Cleghorn of the Royal Bank of Canada, say the government should have an overall policy objective of having Canadian incomes grow faster than those in the United States. The gap between Canadian and American annual incomes is now $9,000 per person.
NO INCOME TAX CONTEMPLATED FOR THE BAHAMAS
The Bahamas has no plans to institute income tax, said Ambassador for Trade and Investment James Smith recently.
Smith said a report in the Financial Times which quoted Bahamas Minister of Finance and Planning Sir William Allen as saying there "is no question that we are going to institute an income tax ourselves" was a misquote.
Smith was commenting on the implications of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement. If Bahamas decided to sign the agreement, it would gradually remove all tariffs on goods and services currently imposed by the 34 potential signatories.
This would mean the elimination of customs duties, the main source of Bahamian government revenues. It would also mean a total revision of the Bahamian tax regime.
However, Smith said emphatically that income tax would not be used to make up any shortfalls. He added that the introduction of sales tax or value-added tax, coupled with reduced government spending, would have to be considered as alternatives.
CAYMANS ISSUES CODE AGAINST MONEY LAUNDERING
The Cayman Islands has issued a code of conduct to financial institutions to try and stem the flow of money laundering.
The code outlines for financial institutions the British colony's anti-money laundering laws, proper procedures to identify clients, how to document evidence, methods for staff training and how to keep records in line with international standards.
The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority will expect all licensed financial institutions to observe the code as a matter of business practice. It applies to traditional financial service providers and anyone involved in relevant transactions, including the real estate industry, company managers and trust companies.
The Caymans, a group of islands in the western Caribbean with 590 banks and trust companies that have more than $500 billion in assets, agreed last year to a United Nations review of its financial systems.
OFFSHORE CENTRES ACCEPT ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING PLANS
Facing the possibility of damaging blacklists, 36 offshore centres have adopted a set of minimum anti-money laundering measures.
Financial regulators from small nations and territories stretching from the Caribbean to Africa to the South Pacific ended two days of talks at the United Nations Offshore Forum in the Cayman Islands by agreeing to adhere to a new set of standards designed to deny criminals access to financial markets. They also pledged to seek political commitments to the pact from their own governments no later than September 30.
The standards are supposed to promote a freer flow of information from tax and offshore financial havens, stricter "know-your-customer" measures, closure of loopholes in suspicious transaction reporting systems and improved enforcement to deal with money laundering crimes.
The Financial Action Task Force, a multinational group founded by the Group of Seven industrial nations, was expected to release a list this summer of countries it considers uncooperative in terms of anti-money laundering initiatives.
The UN initiative recommends that no sanctions be taken against non-compliant countries without a "full, fair and transparent" review of that nation's anti-money laundering efforts.
LUXEMBOURG IN FIRING LINE OVER BANK SECRECY
Pressure is increasing on several European Union states, and especially on Luxembourg, to agree to exchange tax information with other EU members.
The EU is trying to negotiate a tax harmonisation package which includes a 20% withholding tax on savings. Britain is totally opposed to the measure, which would threaten its Eurobond market, and is pushing for a tax exchange agreement as an alternative.
A tax agreement would at minimum compel banks in all EU member states to pass on details of interest payments made to EU nationals to their respective tax authorities.
It is thought Germany will agree; Austria is very unwilling but may give way in the interest of regaining its dignity in the EU in the wake of the Heider affair. That leaves little Luxembourg as the only holdout.
LIECHTENSTEIN TO SET UP ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING POLICE FORCE
In response to a spate of recent reports portraying Liechtenstein as a money laundering centre, the principality has announced that it is forming a special police force specifically to fight against money laundering and organized crime.
The new force will be in place by the end of the year and will be supplemented by moves "to simplify and tighten" mutual judicial assistance laws, including the lifting of banking secrecy in criminal proceedings.
Despite the negative headlines, Liechtenstein continues to prosper as a banking centre. Thirteen banks are already operating there and more licenses will be issued soon.
However, the President of the Liechtenstein Banking Commission, Alfons Thony, said recently that the Commission will make banking licenses more difficult to obtain in order to preserve the quality of banking services in the principality.
BOMBAY TAX OFFICE ATTACKS OFFSHORE MAURITIUS FUNDS
Foreign investment funds in India suffered a setback recently after being informed by the local Bombay tax office that they are not entitled to exemption from Indian capital gains tax of 30% as specified by the double tax treaty with Mauritius.
Most funds for foreign investment into India take the form of Mauritian offshore companies and can make use of the double taxation treaty between Mauritius and India. Under this treaty, which is based on the OECD model treaty, offshore companies pay no capital gains tax in either country.
However, many of the investment companies have 100% UK ownership, and the Bombay tax authority is applying the far less favourable UK-India double tax treaty.
Indian lawyers say they can contest the ruling with the Indian Income Tax Commission, which has agreed to speed up the normally torturous appeal process. The Indian Central Board of Direct Taxation, which sets policy guidelines for regional tax authorities, is also said to be studying the
The rulings could threaten foreign investment in India generally, and the health of both the Bombay and Mauritius stock exchanges in particular.
Well hopefully resume our scams series next issue. There was enough this time without it!
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