TROUBLE IN PARADISE


'A holiday in the Cayman Islands offers beautiful beaches, exotic local rums and the surreal experience of Stingray City.

Soak up the charm of Grand Cayman with gourmet food, ocean diving and perfect scenery.'*

The Cayman Islands is a very beautiful set of islands in the Caribbean, it is also a British Crown dependency and a well known, arguably notorious tax haven. It is its Crown dependency status that allows it to be so tax friendly.

Now I have a, possibly rather idealistic, view of paying tax; Taxes are the price exacted for living in a civilised society, where the elderly and vulnerable are care for, in which schools, hospitals, the fire and police services are properly funded. A place where the basic infrastructure is in place and properly maintained. Taxes are part of the contract between the state and the citizen. Up until recently this was pretty much a given, those who sought to avoid or evade paying their fare of tax sought to hide the fact and were publicly shamed when caught out. These days the seek to brazen it out.
For those who do not feel obliged to keep their part of this ‘contract’ there are places like The Cayman Islands. Given that Parliament is ultimately responsible for this small territory you might think that there might be some concern about in Mother of Parliament. Well interest there seems to be, there are 20 members of an All Party parliamentary Group, [APG See Below]. Finding out what exactly this Group does has not been easy, though on the basis of what I have found it seems that its primary focus is to represent the interests of the Cayman Islands in the British Parliament rather than the interests of the British Taxpayer. The group receives funding from the Cayman Islands for something called ‘secretariat services’ [1]and have been on at least two all expenses paid visits to the tropical paradise.

The group does not seem to have been particularly exercised when scandal engulfed this tropical idyll. The exception is the one member of the group who does have knowledge of region Dianne Abbot. I make no apologies for reproducing a full account written by her below:-


'In 2007, the Metropolitan Police sent a team out to Cayman to investigate allegations of wrongdoing. This inquiry has cost an estimated £20 million in salaries, costs and damages payouts. However, last week British newspapers carried reports that the head of the Metropolitan Police team sent to Cayman has accused the former governor, Stuart Jack, of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The Independent newspaper in London quotes a letter from Scotland Yard's Commander Allan Gibson to the current governor accusing Jack of "misconduct in public office, attempting to pervert the course of justice and wasting police time".


The letter goes on: "It is my view the allegations are serious and contain sufficient detail to warrant a criminal investigation."[2]

The foreign office is apparently fighting in the courts against the release of the full inquiry report, because "disclosure could lead to a loss of confidence within the international community which could impact negatively on the Cayman Islands' reputation and, more directly, on its financial industry". Presumably, another reason why the foreign office doesn't want the full investigation made public is that it might reflect badly on their own man — former governor Stuart Jack.

Now that the Metropolitan Police have said that events warrant a full criminal investigation, such an investigation should go ahead in view of the fact that the initial inquiry cost £20 million. To ignore the recommendation for a full criminal investigation would mean that this significant sum had been poured down the drain. But the authorities seem to be delaying.

"Some people suspect that the powers that be will do everything in their power to hush matters up. Author Nicholas Shaxson, who has written extensively about tax havens, is scornful about the possibility of a full criminal investigation. The Cayman Islands' authorities are completely and utterly captured by the financial sector... I wouldn't trust them to do an independent investigation if the reputation of the Caymans is at stake."

I then wrote to Graham Brady MP Chair of the Cayman Island APG. Here is our exchange of e-mails.[3]

Dear Graham Brady

I am intending to write an article on my Blog The Politics of Dancing http://alextalbot.blogspot.co.uk/ respecting the work of the aforementioned APG. Could you explain the function of the group to me and why you have a particular interest in the the Cayman Islands? Also how many times you visited the islands and who paid for the trip?


From Graham Brady:-


Cayman Island All Party Parliamentary Group

The purpose of the group is to improve knowledge in Parliament of the islands. As you will know, Cayman is a British Overseas Territory and the UK government has responsibility for security and external relations. The Governor, a British appointee also has responsibility for ensuring good governance, financial sustainability and the rule of law. It is in my view important that the British government is held to account in its performance of those responsibilities. I have been an officer of the Group for 15 years and have visited the islands twice. The visits have been paid for by the Cayman Islands Government and have been fully declared by the Members who have visited.


Graham Brady

I am confused by that Mr Brady only feels responsible for holding the British government to account and not the Cayman Island authorities, though of course if the latter were part of the groups brief it would be unwise to accept secretarial expenses as well as freebie trips to the Islands.

Now I have neither the time nor resources to fully explore more fully the role and purpose of the this particular APG. I am certainly not suggesting they have broken any rules let alone laws. Maybe I have presented the group unfairly, in which case I will happily provide space for the group to respond. I merely draw attention, along with a few passing comments, to its existence. 

CONTACT DETAILS FOR CORRESPONDENCE AND GENERAL ENQUIRIES ABOUT THE GROUP

Mr Graham Brady MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Tel: 020 7219 1260

Cayman Islands Government (London Office) provides secretariat services to the group. Address: 6 Arlington Street, London SW1A 1RE. Tel: 020 7491 7772.

[1] Though this is not the only direct intervention by the Island in the UK parliament. Lord Blencathra, a former MP and Tory chief whip, is being paid by the Cayman Islands government to represent the interests of its financial services industry – despite also being able to vote on legislation affecting the territory.Inquiries by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent have established that Lord Blencathra has lobbied on behalf of the Caymans while claiming thousands of pounds in House of Lords attendance allowances. Lord Blencathra was later cleared of any wrong doing!

[2] http://rushpost.net/?p=2135 I do hope that Ms Abbott’s sudden indignation is not related to the current interest in APG’s

[3] I also wrote to the groups vice chairman Brian H. Donoho, but as of writing he has thus far failed to respond. It is perhaps worth putting on record that Mr Brady’s response was extraordinarily prompt, and I am grateful for him for doing so. This is a small and insignificant blog, he was under no pressure to do so.

*Daily Telegraph feature, in association with The Cayman Islands.

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