Extraordinary problems demand extraordinary solutions.
Today, throughout the Caribbean, the lethal cocktail of dirty money and drug trafficking is combining to create new levels of violence and gun crimes. It undermines tourism, public safety, economic independence and political will, therefore effecting the very fabric of these paradise islands.
The subject was discussed at length over two days with the Heads of Financial Intelligence Units in the English-speaking Caribbean. The summit was hosted by the Office of National Drugs and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) in Antigua and funded by the Department for International Development’s Caribbean Criminal Assets Recovery Programme (CCARP)
In my keynote address to the delegates, I suggested that there was room in the offshore world for totally transparent jurisdictions, along the lines of the Channel Island of Guernsey.
There, my friend Geoffrey Rowland, who served as Bailiff of Guernsey from 2005 to 2012, instituted a regime that drove out dirty money and corporate corruption, in favor of one that would reward honest businesses with a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
As attorney general, he’d been approached by a competent law enforcement authority, asking for information about a business licensed in Guernsey. Sick and tired of having dishonest businesses tarnish his birthright, and rather than allow that business to hide behind previously constructed offshore duckblinds, he fully complied with the inquiry. Next, he announced that Guernsey would turn itself into a transparent offshore entity by complying with any and all inquiries from competent law enforcement authorities. As a direct result, the dirty money fled to less stringent, less dangerous jurisdictions, while the businesses that remained could brag that they had nothing to hide and were worthy of their clients’ trust.
Years later, Geoff told me that Guernsey made more money as a transparent financial center than they ever did as a typically opaque offshore entity.
I related this in my address to the delegates in Antigua, and suggested that transparency sells. I said that, according to Gresham’s law, bad money drives out good. However, transparent business drives out bad money and good money, looking for status, moves in to replace it.
My Ultimate White List costs nothing, adds no bureaucracy to any government and, what’s more, can be implemented and maintained with the infrastructure already in place in most offshore jurisdictions. All it takes is the will to implement it, a press release to announce it and a few financial investigators with handcuffs to enforce it.
With that in mind, here is what I suggest offshore jurisdictions bang on their front door, like Luther’s 95 Theses.
1 – We are a sovereign state of absolute transparency. That means, we accept the fact that there is no legitimate argument whatsoever in favor of anonymity.
2 – We do not sell bearer shares. All anonymous shell companies, trusts and IBCs are immediately invalid. Former holders will have to reapply to own the new form of IBC.
3 – The new, fully transparent IBC provides that beneficial owners must have a stake in the island. Among other things, beneficial owners employ a local company formation agent, a local lawyer, locally accredited accountants, local nominee directors and have a local office. No companies in the jurisdiction have been or can be formed by foreign company formation agents, nor are foreign based nominee directors permitted. Furthermore, all of these new IBCs have a banking relationship on the island, and meet fair but serious capital requirements. Only Class A (onshore) and Class B (offshore) banks are permitted and in both cases, the treasury is physically present on the island.
4 – No licenses are granted for online gambling. Sports betting, with reputable firms, is considered on an ad hoc basis but, then, only as long as their servers are on the island. These companies have also hired local directors for oversight and meet fair but serious capital requirements.
5 – Local directors are held responsible for failing to take sufficient steps to prevent money laundering, fraud, mis-invoicing, and/or other crimes. We demand strict requirements for enhanced due diligence and violators are subject to prosecution.
6 – Inquiries by competent law enforcement or judicial authorities are answered and fully met.
7 – We maintain an active and up to date database of beneficial owners. There is a second, active and up to date database of shareholders. Both databases are publicly available. That’s because we believe that corporations and corporate rights and privileges are granted by the state. It is only right and proper that the public knows to whom the state has, in their name, given those rights and privileges.
8 – All locally licensed entities file reports, similar to SEC form 8K, to announce major events that regulators should know about. Failure to do will result in an immediate revocation of the company’s license.
9 – No activities, even subsidiary activities, take place in FATF and/or CFATF blacklisted jurisdictions.
10 – Subsequent to a court order, assets of companies suspected of illegal activities are frozen. In the event of conviction, all assets are confiscated and civil proceedings begin immediately to assess damages.