Pictured: Premier Alden McLaughlin presents some thatch rope to U.K. MP Bill Wiggin last week in London, as Speaker of the House McKeeva Bush looks on. He has just returned from this celebratory trip faced with some new challenges with the UK's mandate on public registries.
(CMR) In a press conference held earlier today Premier Honourable Alden McLaughlin has stated that he will request changes to the constitution of the Cayman Islands in order to address the mandate handed down by the UK on beneficial ownership registries.
In what is seen as a bold move against the UK Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering bill he appears to have galvanized the full support of the opposition on this matter. The bill which was signed into law today essentially means that all 14 British Overseas Territories (BOT) will have to create public beneficial ownership registries by the end of 2020. The governments of those territories will need an equivalent of the UK's register of persons with significant control (PSC registers) by that deadline or else this will be imposed directly by the UK.
Interestingly enough the Crown Dependencies – Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – which are not affected by these changes, will not be forced to make their existing beneficial ownership registers public.
The Premier has just returned from the UK where he was unsuccessful in convincing the UK representatives to side with the remaining BOTs on this matter. Earlier this week the House of Lords sided with the UK lawmakers in decided that it was not unconstitutional for them to make such a mandate.
However, the Premier now proposes taking constitution changes to the UK in order to limit the UK's powers to decide local matters. In the press conference video seen below He suggests that the powers of the UK should be further limited by the amendment. Essentially section 125 of the Constitution which currently allows Her Majesty to legislate for Cayman's “peace, order and good government” to only be used in the most “serious circumstances.”
“it be removed as is the case with the Bermuda Constitution or clarified to matters involving the most serious circumstances such as a fundamental breakdown in public order or endemic corruption in the Government.”
The UK apparently has reneged on the original agreement that Cayman would be subjected to the public registry standard once ti became a globally accepted standard. Alden has accepted that once the rest of the world accepts this level of transparency Cayman will follow suit but to do so at the junction would place the islands at a distinct disadvantages for its financial services products.
Opposition Leader Hon. Ezzard Miller pledged his support to the Premier. It is unknown at this stage how the UK will respond to the request for constitutional changes meant to circumvent their mandate.
Understandably these changes are proving controversial from a constitutional perspective; the BOTs are self governing, autonomous territories and the imposition of a direct law from the UK has sparked allegations of colonialism – some BOTs are now discussing the possibility of complete independence from the UK.