Bermuda’s EU advisers paid $135,000 in 2018

  • Direct engagement: David Burt, the Premier

Te Government spent more than $135,000 on specialists to help navigate the European Union’s demands for economic substance rules and Brexit-related matters.

Legal and advisory firm Steptoe, which has offices in Brussels, London and Washington, was hired to assist Bermuda’s leaders and civil servants on EU affairs.

The company was paid $135,650.43 for work carried out between last June and October in a contract said in a government notice to be “professional services European Union”.

The Government said last week the cost of the contract with Steptoe, which provides professional services on European and international law and policy, was shared between the Ministry of Finance and the Cabinet Office.

David Burt, the Premier, said: “The need for direct interaction with the EU has been shown in the months of work that led to the adoption of the Economic Substance Act 2018.

“Like other jurisdictions, Bermuda has become an international target of European, localised politics. This threat can and will be met by direct engagement in Brussels on behalf of the Government of Bermuda.”

The contract was listed among eight individuals and organisations employed by the Cabinet Office on contracts of at least $50,000 revealed by information published in the Official Gazette last week.

Bermuda was one of more than 40 jurisdictions who promised to introduce legislation by the year-end to address EU concerns about tax avoidance by multinational companies.

The Economic Substance Act 2018 was passed in December after it was redrafted and returned to the House of Assembly.

It is understood the European Code of Conduct Group was not satisfied with the original version of the legislation.

Steptoe’s website said: “In more than 100 years of practice, Steptoe has earned an international reputation for vigorous representation of clients before governmental agencies, successful advocacy in litigation and arbitration, and creative and practical advice in structuring business transactions.”

The site listed “preventive international corporate compliance”, including “economic sanctions/export controls” among its areas of expertise.

Information about its relationship with Bermuda was released in the Official Gazette last Monday as part of a Public Access to Information requirement to publish details of Government contracts valued at $50,000 or more.

Also included in the list was The Group, a Washington-based lobbying organisation on a $200,000 deal to provide US regulatory guidance to the Government.

A spokeswoman said later the company has been under contract for more than a year.

Philip Perinchief, a former Progressive Labour Party senator and attorney-general, was hired for $92,031.12 in a dual capacity as a consultant and also assisted the former government reform ministry in a reorganisation of boards and committees after a 2017 Throne Speech pledge. The spokeswoman said: “There are close to 200 boards and committees and the requirements for most are enshrined in legislation. This work continues under the Cabinet Office.

“Mr Perinchief also undertook a review of the Public Access to Information Act, the results of that work are currently being considered.

“He also provided legal advice and support to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.”

A total of $991,054.67 was earmarked for rent between January and October, 2018.

That included $175,327.21 on an office in Washington DC, despite it being closed.

A contract for $399,327.46 with White Druce and Brown was for the Government’s London office and a further $416,400 was assigned to island property firm Ingham and Wilkinson.

The figures also showed $55,000 contracts from last May to April this year for Vincent Hollinsid and Orin Simmons, members of the Government’s Public Service Negotiating Team.

They were part of a group hired last year to continue negotiations with the Prison Officers Association and the Bermuda Police Association.