Travers takes issue with UK press on hidden cash

| 10/01/2010

(CNS): The chair of Cayman Finance has taken the UK media to task over its depiction of the Cayman Islands. In a letter to the editor published in the weekend edition of the Daily Telegraph Anthony Travers accuses the right wing broad sheet and other UK papers of taking, “intelligence on the Cayman Islands from potboiler novels and Hollywood movies.” Referring to a Telegraph piece about the UK’s tax amnesty, Travers takes issue over the use of a photo and caption inferring that Cayman is where wealthy Brits are hiding their cash. (Photo used to illustrate amnesty article)

“Your article (“Offshore amnesty targets dodge tax deadline”, January 3) rightly makes no mention of the Cayman Islands, but is accompanied by a picture of the Islands with the caption, “Cayman Islands face scrutiny by Dave Hartnett and his team,” Travers wrote. “Really? No bank accounts exist in the Cayman Islands that can produce any additional tax revenue for the UK as the Cayman Islands have complied with proactive account reporting with the UK, and every other EU jurisdiction, under the European Directive since 2003. Over the past two decades, the Cayman Islands have complied with every international initiative on transparency.”

In his short letter the Cayman Finance (formerly CIFSA) chair indicates that the constant mischaracterization of Cayman not only undermines the jurisdiction’s contribution to the UK but creates unrealistic expectations that money will be found here to fund the UK deficit.

The amnesty deadline passed at midnight on 4 January and as many as 10,000 people have admitted to the UK treasury that they had offshore accounts with untaxed income, most of which were accounts in Licehenstien. No mention has been made by the UK tax office that any of those coming forward had accounts in the Cayman Islands.

According to the Telegraph, the total admissions revealed by the disclosure is below estimates made by PricewaterhouseCoopers, who suggested around 13,000 people would admit they had tax, interest and fines to pay going back up to 20 years.

By applying for the amnesty account holders will have tax liability capped to 10% of the total tax due. Those that did not come forward now face penalties of up to 100% and potentially being named and shamed. HMRC has details of offshore accounts held by UK residents with over 300 banks.

Dave Hartnett, the permanent secretary for tax at the Revenue and Customs department, said last week that now the ‘New Disclosure Opportunity’ was closed the Revenue and Customs department would begin the job of using the data from banks to identify people who have not made disclosures despite having “hidden their money” offshore. "We are starting our investigations, and penalties can be up to 100% of the tax not paid," he said.

Officials had hoped the amnesty would raise £500m and form the latest "line in the sand" in its efforts to clamp down on tax evasion. Stephen Camm, tax partner from PWC, said the Revenue was now looking at raising less than £135m.

Category: Business

Comments (30)

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  1. Anonymous says:

     So Mr Marchant it appears it is only Anthony Travers you have an issue with……. – I somehow cant see Tony having too many sleepless nights over that .

  2. Anonymous says:

     Mr Marchant your true colours were well and truly shown in your posting business section  CNS 22/12/09  Tax reviewer to reveal all at watchdog event … where you went on the attack against Tony Travers  .- Now here we go again and the focus is Tony Travers …

    – it wasnt a smart move and I would ask others to read what was written .You deliberately attempted to mislead people re Tony Travers and the end result was that people went on record to address these wrongs and at the same time cut all ties with offshore alert. 

    Not only did you attempt to  run down Cayman but you also attempted to discredit an individual who has done so much for Cayman 

     

    • Re. "Not only did you attempt to run down Cayman …"

      That is not true. In fact, I was complimentary about Cayman. As with another poster, you seem to be unable to differentiate between an individual (in this case Tony Travers) and a country (in this case the Cayman Islands). Criticising Tony Travers is not the same as criticising the Cayman Islands.

      For the record, I think that, all in all, Cayman is an excellent jurisdiction in which to conduct business (although, like everywhere else, it has its weak areas). I also think that Mr. Travers is doing a terrible job – a really, really terrible job – in terms of ‘promoting’ the country (more like a case of ‘unpromoting’ the jurisdiction).

      Re. "You deliberately attempted to mislead people re Tony Travers and the end result was that people went on record to address these wrongs and at the same time cut all ties with offshore alert."

      I did not try to mislead anyone (what a bizarre interpretation) and, if my memory serves me correctly, not one person went on the record (with a name and an email address) in support of Mr. Travers. All that could be mustered in his defence were some anonymous emails (which, for all I know, he wrote himself) and some from the generic ‘Cayman Finance’ that no-one had the gumption to sign their name to. It’s all rather ironic given that Mr. Travers is lauding transparency in his letter to the Telegraph.

      The only group to "cut all ties to OffshoreAlert" was Cayman Finance, which is meaningless since Cayman Finance is not a subscriber and has no influence over its members if registrations for our 2010 conference (which are on record pace) and subscriptions to our newsletter are anything to go by.

      Mr. Travers and/or Cayman Finance have made several disparaging remarks in public recently about the OECD, the US Government, the UK Government, Michael Foot, Cayman’s Governor, etc., etc. In his letter to the Telegraph, Mr. Travers even lambasted the entire "British press".

      How on earth anyone thinks this is beneficial to Cayman is beyond me. The path to better publicity lies in winning over journalists, not alienating them.

      If Tony Travers is going to publicly criticise all and sundry in a bizarre attempt to ‘promote’ Cayman, he cannot legitimately complain if some of it comes right back at him.

      • Anonymous says:

        I am anonymous (as are the majority of people who contribute) and I am certainly not Anthony Travers so think again Mr Marchant . You clearly have a credability issue as it is – Why make it worse for yourself

        • The people I usually have a "credibility issue" with tend to be those who commit financial crimes, believe that committing financial crimes is an acceptable way of earning a living or, generally, have low moral fibre. Having a "credibility issue" with such people, several of whom I have helped to put behind bars, is something I encourage and their contempt for me is probably the sincerest compliment anyone could pay me. Long may it continue!

          The people I don’t have a "credibility isue" with tend to be those that abhor financial crime and also journalists from some of the world’s best-known media outlets, e.g. CNN, CNBC, BBC, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek,  to name but a few, who regularly ask me for assistance when researching programs or articles with an offshore or financial crime angle.

  3. Does anyone in the Cayman Islands genuinely believe (as opposed to pretending to believe in public) that local bank accounts and legal structures have not been used by UK taxpayers – or taxpayers of other countries, for that matter – to conceal taxes over the last 20 years or more? And the reason for this is because Cayman has signed transparency agreements?

    It is as ridiculous as suggesting that Delaware has not been, and is not being, used to conceal taxes by foreign nationals just because the USA is a party to several transparency initiatives.

    The reality is that, just like Delaware is being used by taxpayers of eastern European countries in particular to commit tax evasion on a daily basis,as is borne out by the many MLAT requests that are made each year by countries like Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, etc. and obtained each month by OffshoreAlert, so other countries have also been, and are being, used by for tax evasion (not to mention a slew of other financial crimes).

    It is unintelligent and defies common sense that the Cayman Islands, which openly promoted itself as a centre for secrecy when OffshoreAlert first began publishing in 1997, has not, and does not, attract its fair share of tax evaders.

    For example, at the sentencing of former Cayman-based banker John Mathewson at federal court in New Jersey in 1999, it was disclosed that information provided by Mathewson had led to investigations into approximately 1,500 US residents who were suspected of tax evasion.

    Burying one’s head in the sand and ignoring reality is a sign of weakness and, invites ridicule among intelligent people and, ultimately, is not beneficial to promoting the Cayman Islands to the outside world, upon which Cayman relies for its success.

    A much more convincing, mature and credible message for Cayman, in my opinion, would be along the lines of ‘Yes, of course we have criminal activity here, just like every other jurisdiction in the world, but we have regulations and laws that are at least the equal of any jurisdiction in the world, including the USA, that allow us to act responsibly when anything untoward is brought to our attention.’

    • Anonymous says:

      Please somebody explain to Marchant the difference between an MLAT and proactive reporting under the EUSD . 

      • Nowhere in my comment did I state or imply that an MLAT was the same as the Savings Directive or compare them in any way. No intelligent, impartial or reasonable person could interpret my posting as you have done.

        Mr. Travers stated that: "Over the past two decades, the Cayman Islands have complied with every international initiative on transparency." This would, inter alia, include the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between Cayman and the USA that was implemented on March 19, 1990 (i.e. less than 20 years ago)

        I repeat what was in my initial posting: It invites ridicule on the Cayman Islands when a financial services leader essentially states in public that ‘it is impossible to commit tax evasion in the Cayman Islands’. It is simply not believable and, in my opinion, is an extreme example of burying one’s head in the sand. Instead of enhancing Cayman’s image in the world, it harms it because it indicates that the isue of tax evasion is not being taken seriously.

        • Anonymous says:

          I am not even remotely involved in the financial services industry.  However, I have heard a number of interesting speakers and the view they espouse is that there is a difference between tax evasion and tax reduction.

          While the line between those two may be thin, it seems to boil down to questions of philosophy and regulation, and the Cayman Islands has taken the "high road" of openness and has established a regulatory regime that has been praised internationally for its adherence to established standards of proper financial practice.

          I suspect that Mister Travers is savvy enough to NOT state that "it is impossible to commit tax evasion in the Cayman Islands", especially since I imagine there is nowhere in the world that could truthfully be described in such a manner.  I suspect that he might reference the current regulatory regime as making it highly unlikely that someone would be able to successfully evade taxes over the long run by simple moving their funds to a Cayman Islands company/fund/whatever.

          As a spectator to the Cayman Islands financial services sector, I am aware (and therefore would suspect that "serious" persons in the financial service industry are aware) that the Cayman Islands does indeed take the issue of tax evasion seriously and to claim otherwise is to ignore what seems to be well-established fact.

          What is the agenda here?

           

          • Re. "I suspect that Mister Travers is savvy enough to NOT state that "it is impossible to commit tax evasion in the Cayman Islands" …"

            I refer you not only to the story at the top of this page, particularly the part that reads "No bank accounts exist in the Cayman Islands that can produce any additional tax revenue for the UK …" and also to another page of CamanNewsService at http://centos6-httpd22-php56-mysql55.installer.magneticone.com/o_belozerov/31115drupal622/business/2009/10/27/cayman-finance-chair-takes-pr-fight-washington, where Mr. Travers is quoted as saying "To describe the Cayman Islands as a jurisdiction where tax evasion could be conducted is wrong."

            I share your incredulity.

            • Anonymous says:

              But do the treaties, agreements, etc. in place not allow the UK (having gone through the proper channels) to view financial records in the Cayman Islands?  Isn’t the point of all the paperwork to provide a means by which proper financial practice can be enforced?

              If so, then I would think the jurisdiction should be considered open and transparent to the UK and if the UK should choose to investigate questionable practices, the Cayman Islands would assist in investigating and putting an end to those practices.

              Ultimately, I would expect that any improper behavior would be found out through the regulatory regime in place, either by Cayman Islands officials, UK officials, or perhaps other signatories to the treaties/MoU’s/and all that.

              I’m trying not to be naive here because I know I am way out of my area of knowledge and expertise, but it seems to me that Mr Travers is saying that tax evasion cannot be conducted in the Cayman Islands because if you try it, you will be found out.

               

               

            • James Cassidy says:

              Your incredulity needs a dose of statistical reality. Trying to take Mr Travers’ comments out of context does you a disservice. In the context of tax evasion Mr Traverswas correctly describing the Cayman Islands  position as against  Switzerland where 45000 requests have been made by the IRS for information on tax evaders when over a decade a mere 20 applications have been made by the IRS in the Cayman Islands pursuant to the US Cayman tax treaty. As is invariably the case with Mr Travers’ analysis your incredulity will yield to a deep appreciation over time. The figures for monies recovered from the Cayman Islands will all be publically available and will conform to Mr Travers assessment. For the full and proper context of Mr Travers’ comments do see the excellent coverage on the Cayman Finance website.

              Surely your ill-informed venom cannot be solely motivated by the fact that Mr Travers doesn’t want to speak at your annual conference which appears to serve no other worthwhile purpose than to make you money.  
              • Anonymous says:

                 Well said Mr Cassidy . 

                I really dont understand what Mr Marchant hopes to achieve – I had hoped he had seen sense after Cayman Finance pointed out the facts addressing the misinformation he had spread with regards Tony Travers  in a previous blog however it is clear the man is completely irrational . 

                 

                 

              • Re. "For the full and proper context of Mr Travers’ comments do see the excellent coverage on the Cayman Finance website."

                If I were a gambling man, which I am, I would place a heavy bet that what we have here is a case of someone from Cayman Finance posting a message about Cayman Finance’s "excellent coverage" of a speech by the Chairman of Cayman Finance.

                It this is actually the case, what an absolutely chronically poor reflection it would be on Tony Travers and Cayman Finance.

                • Anonymous says:

                  One minute its Tony Travers who you say is posting  , next its someone from Cayman Finance – has it ever struck you that Cayman Finance and Tony Travers are held in high regard here in Cayman as a result there will be people like myself who voice support for both – 

                  You are an extremely paranoid man and need to have a reality check – however keep this behaviour up as it shows the world just how unprofessional you are.

                   

                   Mr Marchant at every opportunity you go on about your own publication 

    • Anonymous says:

      Mr Marchant  you appear to grab every opportunity to comment – and once again appear to be critical of Cayman – You really should do your homework as another poster has pointed out – perhaps just stick to commenting to the UK tabloids as I note you did a week ago when you chose to comment on the Tiger Woods marriage saga  " Tiger will be hiding money legally in tax havens "   

      I guess its a case of anything to see your name in print 

       

       

      • My comments were not critical of the Cayman Islands. They were critical of Tony Travers. An individual would have to have a gargantuan ego to believe that personal criticism is the same as criticizing an entire country.

        Re. Tiger Woods. He has indeed utilized the offshore world as part of his overall financial strategy. For example, he is a beneficial owner of a company called Privacy Ltd., which is domiciled in Cayman. The company’s assets include the $22 million mega-yacht ‘Privacy’. This information was disclosed by Mr. Woods in litigation at federal court in the USA and was reported on by OffshoreAlert as long ago as November, 2004. The Daily Mirror called me for a comment, as journalists do all the time, and I was happy to oblige.

        By the way, if you want to know what’s happening on your own doorstep, you could do a lot worse than taking out a subscription to OffshoreAlert, as many people in Cayman have. I think it might help improve the quality of your postings.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is this the same Marchant who is now the expert on Tiger Woods use of tax havens or is he making that up as he goes along too ?

    • I Wish says:

      I wish I was as clever as Mr. Marchant thinks he is.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Please posters  do not encourage CIG to respond further in the international press.The “official” commentary has included such excellent promotional comment as “we are bankrupt”,”we are a brass plate jurisdiction but want to change”,”we are hemorrhaging business”,”major institutions are all leaving because the UPM got our  immigration policy all wrong “we have no idea what our financial position may be”.Just maybe it is better to leave PR to Cayman Finance  who seem to be able to make the best of things 

    • And there's more says:

      And don’t forget Kurt’s idiotic first shot at a public position, the classic "first do no harm" speech.

      PS: For the record, we are still too much of a brass plate jurisdiction, we are haemorrhaging business and jobs and major institutions are leaving or reducing business, because the immigration policy has become too burdensome for them.  We may not be bankrupt, yet, but in the near future. .  .

      • Anonymous says:

        Cayman’s Immigration Policy is actually very business-friendly when compared to other jurisdictions. Of course for anyone who wants everything handed to them it will still be accused of being too stringent.  This is not about Immigration.  It is about 1. greedy companies and 2. a systematic attack against the Cayman Islands, involving many players.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Who is the Minister of Finance?  😉

  6. Anonymous says:

     Mr Travers maybe a lawyer however he  is Chairman of Cayman Finance as well as the CSX hence the reason he has every right to respond – someone has to look out for our Financial Services Industry . 

    • Nonlawyer says:

      I am fully aware of his calling and his position but Cayman is looking rather like a dog and pony show in the offshore arena. We need support from the Ministers, the Attorney General and the Financial Secretary. Is that asking too much? It is not a critism of Mr Travers.

      • Wellversed says:

        I agree with nonlawyer. We all respect Mr Travers but he needs support from elsewhere. What about the Chamber of Commerce if the Minister of Finance does not understand these things.

        • Anonymous says:

          The Minister of Finance has many advisers, including very knowledgable civil servants, trust lawyers, bankers, and business owners.  My feeling on the matter is that they are working hard behind the scenes.  But yes I agree that when you have the media working against you, you have to respond using the very same media.  We do need to have more than one voice, not that I don’t think Mr. Travers is capable, because I do, but we need to drown out the negative statements with positive statements being made on a regular basis by as many relevant knowledgeable and respected persons as possible.

    • Anonymous says:

      Our Premier may hold the Portfolio of Minister of Finance, but without people like Mr Travers to do the actual work we would sink into the ditches and be washed away very quickly. The reason why Mr, Travers has to take on all the critics is because the Minister of Finance is clueless as to what is happening in our Financial world and our previous Financial Secretary be he whatever he is now cant even get our governments accounts up to date going back at least five years.

  7. Nonlawyer says:

    Why is it always Travers writing these missives? Does the Mininster of Finance have no voice? Can someone else other than lawyers PLEASE respond to these press articles.