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Cayman Islands Names Kurt Tibbetts As New Head Of Government

Lisa Ugur, Tax-news.com, London

23 November 2000


The Cayman Islands' drawn-out general election has reached its conclusion, with the newly-elected legislature bringing in Kurt Tibbetts, who will become the top politician in the British Caribbean territory. The official title of his post is leader of the government and he replaces Truman Bodden, who voters ousted in apparent anger over the weakening of the banking secrecy laws that have made the Cayman Islands a major international offshore financial centre.

Also ousted in the vote on November 8 was former Tourism Minister Thomas Jefferson, who with Bodden led negotiations with the OECD and Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The Cayman Islands was unlucky enough to have been included in both the OECD's initiative against so-called "harmful tax havens" and the FATF campaign against jurisdictions deemed "non-cooperative" in the international fight against money laundering.

The Cayman Islands has only 33,000 residents but is the world's fifth-largest banking centre due to its tax status and levels of banking secrecy. Although the Cayman Islands was praised by the FATF in October for the "very encouraging" measures it had taken on money laundering, the territory has always objected to its inclusion on the FATF's now infamous blacklist, branding it unjust because of existing efforts to improve the regulation of the banking system. It seems, then, that the electorate have expressed this anger in the recent elections.

However, from the words of the British Governor Peter Smith, it seems that co-operation with the OECD and FATF will continue under the new regime, although to what extent is unclear. In congratulating the newly-elected government, he said that there were 'serious things that need to be done and addressed very quickly.' The Governor continued: 'You've all been given extremely heavy responsibilities, and I would merely add that in addition to addressing the issues that will confront you in terms of Cayman, please do not lose sight also of the importance of Cayman's image internationally, which is at present in good shape, but we need momentum, and no slacking.'

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