Finance Minister Bob Richards warned today that Bermuda’s standing as an international business destination is under attack again by the European Union.
This after the Bermuda Government received a new questionnaire from the EU’s Code of Conduct Group earlier this month that has a July 7th deadline for a response.
Speaking at a news conference this afternoon, Mr Richards said the questionnaire was designed to harm Bermuda’s position as a top international business jurisdiction.
“The questionnaire is designed to lead to a predetermined conclusion that Bermuda is a tax haven that is harmful to the global economy, and the EU in particular, and therefore should be placed on an economic blacklist,” said the Minister.
“This, despite the fact that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Financial Action Task Force to combat money laundering have concluded that Bermuda is not ‘harmful’ in its conduct or the application of its laws in the global economy.
“The first attempt by the Code of Conduct Group to blacklist Bermuda in 2015 was thoroughly repudiated by the OECD and was dropped, but this latest attempt has been more cleverly constructed and poses a much greater threat.
“We believe it constitutes a clear and present danger to our international business sector,” he said.
While noting that the questionnaire had been sent to multiple jurisdictions and not just Bermuda, he said the Government would be willing to release it and their response to the public.
He also defended the country’s reputation saying Bermuda had spent a lot of time and money on this entire tax haven issue.
“Bermuda does not hide beneficial ownership from tax, regulatory or law enforcement agencies,” said Mr Richards.
“Bermuda does not create structures designed to obscure where income is earned. Bermuda is not the jurisdiction of choice for hundreds of thousands of multinationals seeking to create shell corporations. Other jurisdictions are.
“Scapegoating Bermuda plays well in some European countries for political reasons. It also assumes that Bermuda is weak and defenceless.
“But we are not. We will fight. We will fight this unjust attack on the livelihoods of thousands of Bermudians employed in the financial services business or those who depend directly on that sector for support. We will fight to preserve our sovereign right to determine tax policy for Bermudian companies.”
He also noted that while Brexit has reduced the UK’s influence on the EU, Bermuda still has “private sector partners and overseas based friends” who will help defend the island’s reputation.
But he said: “Our first priority is to answer the questionnaire clearly and logically. If there are any biases in the questions, we will point them out and propose alternatives that demonstrate our role in co-operation, transparency and reporting.
“With the questionnaire submitted by the deadline date, we will follow with a campaign enlisting the support of our contact within the EU and elsewhere that we have built up in recent years.”
Mr Richards concluded: “I am confident we will prevail. We have worked long and hard to establish our reputation as a jurisdiction with integrity and the highest standards of transparency and best practice.
“We will fight to protect our reputation and the livelihoods of thousands of Bermudians who rely on that reputation for their livelihoods.”
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