I saw David Burt’s interview with Sky News last night here in London. Although confident and holding firm to the regulatory regime of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the Premier’s answers will lead to more probative questions than satisfaction on this matter.
But Mr Burt is between a rock and a hard place: on one hand there are 13.4 million files that have been turned over to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and on the other hand, the Premier knows not what types of questions will be focused upon by the interviewer — as contained in those files.
Mr Burt focused upon Bermuda’s regulatory regime and that all beneficial owners are transparently recorded on the beneficial registry, with Revenue & Customs being automatically notified and/or updated in regard to British nationals being placed on the register.
The question is: is the system of the beneficial registry fit for purpose?
Because if the answer is a resounding yes, which is what the Premier seems to be confidently pushing, then why was the tax trust of the Duchy of Lancaster known from the Paradise Paper and not from HMRC? Deeper probe: was that information supplied to HMRC by the BMA, and going back farther, was that information provided to the BMA from Appleby?
The answers to those questions will tell us whether the BMA’s regulatory regime has the integrity that the Premier touts it to have. Or whether those companies — law and/or accounting firms — that set up these complex tax structures in Bermuda on behalf of their clients comply with the rules and regulations, without fail.
What is very puzzling is why Bermuda consistently, stubbornly and to the detriment of our international reputation insists that we are not a tax haven. Why did Bob Richards go to such lengths to even employ a public relations firm in London on this false propaganda spin?
Now we want to switch to being perceived as an offshore financial centre? First, let’s dig ourselves out of this hole before we attempt to rebrand ourselves.
Mr Burt needs to set up a task force that has no Appleby staff or members of any law firm that deals with this type of legal tax structure. No accounting firms that deal with this type of business. No members of the BMA. No politicians and no political supporters.
The task force needs to have very well-trained lawyers and media specialists, and Appleby should step up to pay the lion’s share of the bill.
Give the task force a remit, a time frame and the ability speak frankly and confidentially with all who managed to weave this web that has now been exposed. And a willingness to rigorously test the BMA’s regulatory requirements.
This is only the beginning of the exposé from 13.4 million files and more will keep coming.
Bermuda’s reputation will need to be rebranded, but first we need facts so that the Premier can honestly and accurately speak internationally on Bermuda’s behalf.
VALIRIE MARCIA AKINSTALL