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Fresh OT talks set for February

The United Kingdom and Overseas Territories' political leaders and representatives will meet in February “to agree a way forward on implementation of the G20 principles on beneficial ownership,” according to the 2014 Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) Communiqué on their December 2-3 meeting.

During this month's JMC meeting, UK Prime Minister David Cameron proposed territories keep a publicly accessible central register of beneficial owners of companies they had incorporated.

There was no agreement on the issue, and on Finance Minister Bob Richards' return from the London meeting, he told the House of Assembly there would be a further meeting in February to attempt to find common ground.

Bermuda was singled out by UK media reporting on the impasse, with some publications saying that Prime Minister Cameron's initiative of the register had been “snubbed” while describing the Island as “the richest of the UK's overseas territories”.

The February meeting will take place ahead of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, the JMC Communiqué stated, while pointing to the importance of “our financial centres to the international financial system”.

The Communiqué read: “We commit to continue to work together in raising international standards to tackle money laundering, tax evasion, illicit finance and corruption, leading by example given the importance of our financial centres to the international financial system. We agree to meet again ahead of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in February to agree a way forward on implementation of the G20 principles on beneficial ownership.”

Mr Richards told the House of Assembly that while the JMC was unable to come to an agreement on the topic, he added that 10 Downing Street was “apparently comfortable” with Bermuda's position, The Royal Gazette reported on December 6.

He had told the House: “We have had a central register for over 70 years and its data is available to proper authorities. “However, some of our fellow territories are not in the same position as us. We have stated our case publicly, including our position that our register should not be made public.”

In the aftermath, British media including national newspaper The Independent and leading business publication the Financial Times (FT) reported that Bermuda will not cooperate with a UK call to make the identities of company owners public. The FT story states that Bermuda, which it called “the richest of the UK's overseas territories (OTs)”, has “snubbed David Cameron's call to rip away the “cloak of secrecy” by creating a public register of the ultimate owners of its companies.” The Independent also said that Prime Minister Cameron's campaign had been “snubbed” and described Bermuda as “the richest and most important of the UK's overseas territories.” It added that Mr Richards: “ ... was in London this month, warning that the island faces a hostile economic climate, despite being host to many of the world's insurance companies, and having a per-capita income of nearly £55,000 — one of the highest in the world.”

Minister of Finance Bob Richards (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published December 29, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 29, 2014 at 12:10 am)

Fresh OT talks set for February

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