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Updated: FCO challenges Premier’s Office claims of UK Crime Agency co-operation

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is challenging Cayman’s claims of co-operation with the UK National Crime Agency.

This, in response to a Premier’s Office statement issued Saturday (15 September) refuting claims from UK National Crime Agency Director Donald Toon that Cayman authorities are uncooperative and his agency “struggles” to get data from here in the fight against money laundering.

Mr. Toon’s allegations were contained in a BBC article published Friday (14 September) evening which claimed that British law enforcement officers were being “frustrated” by a lack of cooperation from Cayman authorities.

Earlier Saturday afternoon the Premier’s Office challenged Mr. Toon’s claims saying, “there is absolutely no merit to Mr. Toon’s allegation. His complaint is a gross misrepresentation of a single situation and is no basis on which to accuse the Cayman Islands of being uncooperative.”

An FCO statement sent to Cayman 27 a short while ago pointed out that the Cayman Islands withdrawal from the 2016 Exchange of Notes with the UK, to share information with law enforcement authorities within 24 hours or in urgent cases within an hour has posed a challenge in NCA investigations. Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin ended the exchange of notes agreement after the UK’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act was passed in May forcing the imposition of public beneficial ownership registries on UK overseas territories including Cayman.

The notes were part of an agreement with the UK to allow Cayman to create its own electronic beneficial ownership platform rather than a public registry. The platform was to be managed by a local authority and would issue information to law authorities by request.

“In April 2016, the UK and Cayman Islands signed the Exchange of Notes on Company Beneficial Ownership. An Exchange of Notes is an information exchange agreement that helps us to link assets held in the Cayman Islands to criminality and, importantly, means that we can stop those assets from being transferred on,” an FCO spokesman told Cayman 27.
The situation has been compounded by Government’s removal of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) “from being the competent authority for dealing with Beneficial Ownership requests,”the spokesman added.
“Both of these steps make our cooperation on serious organised crime more difficult. We are working with the Cayman Government to resolve these issues constructively, including through discussions between the FCO Minister for the Overseas Territories Lord Ahmad and the Premier,” the FCO spokesman added.

Cayman 27 reached out to Premier McLaughlin for comment, we were told the Financial Services Ministry will issue a response.

According to the BBC article the NCA had “significantly stepped up efforts to seize dirty Russian money coming into the UK. It has also launched investigations into British-based lawyers and accountants suspected of facilitating money laundering.”

The article claims a number of its investigations have led it to offshore firms registered in the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Toon, in the article, claimed “Cayman Islands authorities had not co-operated when he had asked for information on who owned these firms.”

However, the Premier’s Office countered saying that it found the NCA’s recent criticism of Cayman “surprising.”

According to the Premier’s Office there has been only one case in May 2018 in which a legal issue affected Cayman’s response time to an NCA request.

“That issue was resolved and the information was, in accordance with our commitment to cooperation, provided to the NCA,” the statement said.

The Premier’s Office said assuming the BBC report is accurate, it is “even more worrying is that this baseless attack appears to be due to our public criticism of and affirmation to challenge the recent attempt by the UK Parliament to legislate for Cayman (and other British Overseas Territories) in areas that are a part of our devolved administration.” Cayman is seeking constitutional changes in light of the UK’s action on the issue.

“The fact that the UK Parliament in May 2018 imposed an unjustifiable and inequitable requirement on the British Overseas Territories and not the Crown Dependancies is bad enough. Now it appears that in furtherance of that agenda the NCA has entered the political arena against what it has previously described as one of its most cooperative and excellent supporters,” the Premier’s Office said.

It added that it hoped it was wrong about that “and look forward to the NCA correcting the public record,” especially since, it pointed out that NCA itself “has written to thank the Cayman Islands for its “continuing and excellent support” in relation to an international, high-profile investigation into money laundering.”

The Premier’s Office stressed that Cayman Islands “will continue to cooperate and support the NCA and all other law enforcement agencies and tax authorities to combat money laundering, tax evasion and all other forms of crime.”

Read the Premier’s Office full statement:

Statement on National Crime Agency

 

About the author

Reshma Ragoonath

Reshma Ragoonath

Reshma Ragoonath is a Trinidadian journalist with 18 years media experience with a strong background in print with her most recent stint at The Cayman Reporter. She has a BA in Mass Communications, as well as, an Associate degree in Journalism and Public Relations.

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