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Richards: Bermuda’s ahead of the rest

Spreading the word: Bob Richards, the finance minister, second from right, pictured with other representatives of the Overseas Territories at yesterday's summit

David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, yesterday admitted some Overseas Territories are ahead of the UK in financial regulation.

And Finance Minister Bob Richards said he had no doubt Mr Cameron meant Bermuda.

Mr Richards, who attended the UK’s anti-corruption summit in London yesterday, added: “The Prime Minister said some nice things about Overseas Territories and how some of them were ahead of the curve, ahead of Britain, and I know he was talking about us.

“So at least the message seems to have got through to him and that’s due in no small part to information we have supplied to Mr Cameron.”

He added: “The tone of the conference was optimistic and everybody wanted to do their bit to stamp out corruption and several statements were made by very influential people like Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund about how corruption stifles growth — which I agree with.

“It’s quite clear to me that we are ahead of everybody else who was there. People were talking about what they wanted to do and the things they were talking about are things we have been doing for a very long time.”

Mr Cameron earlier this year pledged to set up a public UK register of beneficial ownership and called on the Overseas Territories to do the same.

Bermuda already has a register, but it not available to the public. Information on it is shared with authorities abroad on request.

Mr Richards said he had also been interviewed by major overseas media including UK’s ITN TV station, Le Monde, the Financial Times and The Times.

He added: “I think we have got good exposure over here and I have spoken to a lot of media.

“They asked the usual things — basically they are concerned about the fact that we weren’t sharing our beneficial ownership information with the public and my usual answer was that we share with the competent authorities and law enforcement people that have a legitimate interest in the information.

“We do our part for the world economy and law enforcement, we do our bit to accommodate, but we don’t think this information should be available to the public.”

And he said that Bermuda would only change its mind if public registers became a world norm.

Mr Richards said, however, that it was clear many world leaders’ views of Bermuda and its role in the global economy were “stereotypical and getting it wrong to not having a clue.”

He added: “It’s extremely important to communicate Bermuda’s position to those people who don’t know.

“There is still a very strong tendency for people here in the media and political realm, as well as in other countries, to stereotype Bermuda as being a tax haven and secretive and all that stuff.

“There’s still a huge gulf between what people actually think of Bermuda and what the facts are.”

The summit was attended by representatives from nearly 50 countries, including 12 heads of state and five UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

The UN, EU, the World Bank, the IMF, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and Commonwealth countries were also represented.