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Offshore Centers Chide Paradise Papers' Coverage

by Amanda Banks, Lowtax.net, London
13 November, 2017

The Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories have responded to recent media reports decrying the use of offshore entities by pointing out that the so-called "Paradise Papers" do not uncover any wrongdoing.

The media coverage concerns the publication of confidential information from offshore law firm Appleby Global. Appleby said its IT systems were illegally accessed by a professional hacker, describing such as a "serious criminal act."

To date, there have been no allegations of any wrongdoing leveled against Appleby, with the firm reiterating its commitment to maintaining "the highest standards of client service and confidentiality," and saying it will not "tolerate illegal behavior."

Responding to the coverage, Bermuda's Government reaffirmed that it meets global standards on tax and transparency, with Premier David Burt stating: "We maintain high vigilance on any and all criminal activities, including cyber [crime], as well as requiring leading standards on tax and transparency of all who do business here. We will not tolerate non-compliance in any of these areas, and are reviewing this incident and related matters, and will take any further action as required."

The Cayman Islands Minister of Finance, Tara Rivers, said the territory was closely monitoring developments but noted the reporting of the leak provides no evidence of wrongdoing. She said Cayman adheres to global standards of transparency, through exchange of information on tax and beneficial ownership information, and that the territory has been rated "largely compliant" by the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes – a rating shared with Australia, Canada, and Germany.

Dominic Wheatley, CEO of Guernsey's financial services promotion agency, Guernsey Finance, has criticized the angle taken by the media, saying: "The release of the stolen documents, dubbed by the media as the 'Paradise Papers', is an illegal hack of files and unacceptable. The sensationalist reporting is deliberately designed to undermine the legitimate business acts of offshore centres."

Jersey's Government said it "does not want abusive tax avoidance schemes operating in the island and expects financial services providers to abide by a voluntary code to say they will not take on this kind of business," adding "if this proves to be such business, we will consider how to strengthen our arrangements, if necessary by amending our legislation to introduce a substance test. It is not satisfactory for a foreign registered company to claim tax residence in Jersey without demonstrating substance here."

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