Foreign Office holds tax havens summit

by Our Parliamentary Correspondent

23 Oct 2008

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cayman islands

The Foreign Office’s Overseas Territories Consultative Council is to meet with representatives of tax havens, as it comes under pressure to crack down on the governance of the jurisdictions.

In April and May there were bilateral talks with territories’ attorney generals, police commisioners and regulators.

Next week’s London meeting follows criticism from the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which supported a demand from the Public Accounts Committee for territory governors to use reserve powers to bring in more external investigators or prosecutors.

The FO denied complacency over money laundering risks in offshore tax haven administrations in British overseas dependencies. It claimed it had ‘close and consistent engagement’ with agencies in Anguilla, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands in particular to ‘encourage’ them to keep up with international standards and help draft legislation.

The FO said it provided ‘targeted assistance where vulnerabilities have been identified’ and insisted its ‘partnership approach’ was ‘crucial’.

‘Use of governors’ reserve powers to bring in external investigators would be very much
a last resort,’ it said.

There are bilateral talks with agencies in the territories aimed at drawing up action plans to improve capacity and compliance with international standards.

The National Audit Office last year raised the alarm over territories’ ability to assess money laundering risks.

Gibraltar chief minister Peter Caruana dismissed the concerns.

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