Ownership register to stay private
Bermuda will make its beneficial ownership register public when all members of the G20 are required to do so, Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons said yesterday.
She told the Senate the island would “certainly comply” at that point and would, in the meantime, continue to encourage other countries to come up to the level of the “Bermuda standard”.
The beneficial ownership register, which holds information on the real owners of Bermudian-based companies, is held by the Bermuda Monetary Authority.
The BMA shares information from the register with other tax authorities — but it is not a public document. The G20 is an international forum that brings together the world’s 20 leading industrialised and emerging economies.
Senator Simmons was outlining comments she made at the fifth Annual Caribbean and Latin American Corporate Counsel Summit 2017 last month in Miami.
She said she told the summit how Bermuda was dealing with media coverage of the Paradise Papers hack — a leak of millions of documents from Bermudian-founded international law firm Appleby.
Ms Simmons added: “I let the assembly know that Bermuda is not a tax haven and is not a jurisdiction to hide money.
“Bermuda has a fair, strong and robust regulatory and legislative framework that is internationally known to be compliant with the ever-changing international standards.
“I also spoke to Bermuda’s reputation as being one that stands equal to any international measurement and, in some cases, exceeds the regulatory rigour of our critics.”
Ms Simmons said “targeted action” had been taken by the Government to “manage the continuing impact of this disclosure” including the formation of a Cabinet sub-committee on cybercrime.
“All relevant government ministries are working together to co-ordinate responses as required. Systems of oversight are being strengthened where necessary.”
The Progressive Labour Party Senate leader also spoke yesterday about how the Government had to balance the best interests of Bermudians with the economic necessity of having a foreign working population.
“We derive almost 30 per cent of our GDP from the international business sector,” she said. “We have a society of contradictions with mounting demands from our local population for bold leadership.
“This involves making tough — and thoughtful — decisions to craft policies in favour of Bermudians within an atmosphere of mounting pressure from international business, which presently requires skilled, mostly non-Bermudian employees. Finding the right balance can be an extremely complex exercise.”
She cited the Government’s decision to pass legislation to ensure the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act had primacy over the Human Rights Act as an example of that balance.
“The policy intent of restoring the primacy was to continue to enable the promotion and protection of Bermudians in the workforce and the protection of land for Bermudians. This is perfectly justifiable and absolutely necessary given the geographical and economic profile of Bermuda.
“In order to address the gaps that disadvantage our nationals, the Minister of Home Affairs stated Government cannot entertain claims of non-Bermudians who now feel they are being discriminated against contrary to the Human Rights Act 1981 and who feel they are entitled to the same rights as Bermudians.”