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Gibraltar Hits Back At UK Media 'Smear', London

07 June 2002

Following the appearance of stories in the UK press alleging lack of transparency in Gibraltar's public finances, the Chief Minister Peter Caruana called them: "A pathetic and crude attempt to smear Gibraltar for political purposes."

A Government statement said:

'The Gibraltar Government notes with disgust the stories that have emerged in the UK press relating to transparency in public finances in Gibraltar. These appear to be motivated by a combination of malevolence towards Gibraltar and ignorance.

'For the record, the allegations concerning the finances of the Gibraltar Government are totally fabricated and completely untrue. There is total transparency in public finances in Gibraltar-100% of Government revenue and expenditure is accounted for in full compliance with the requirements of the law and good practice.

'The desire to smear Gibraltar is demonstrated by the clear attempt to mix up all sorts of unconnected issues such as transparency in public finances, money laundering, tax laws, economic statistics, the number of offshore companies, the absence of VAT, gift tax and wealth tax and estate duties. There is even a detailed analysis and criticism of Gibraltar's transposition of the 4th and 7th EU Company law, which was approved by the Foreign Office itself.

'Rather than laxity in financial matters Gibraltar has been praised by several international bodies such as the FATF and IMF for having the highest financial regulatory standards in place especially in the sphere of anti-money laundering.

'The fact that several UK newspapers carry the same story at the same time, containing the same mistakes of fact and confusion of issues, proves beyond doubt that this is an orchestrated smear campaign.

'The chronology of events is more than a little bit suspicious. Mr Straw writes to the Chief Minister "out of the blue" about seemingly innocuous issues to do with statistics, raising issues that have never been raised with the Chief Minister before at a lower level, not even by the Convent or F&CO officials in London directly. Within weeks (and despite being told that his letter is incorrect) the Foreign Secretary's letter is leaked to the UK press. People will have to make their own interpretations and judgements about this chronology of events. It would be easy to conclude that the letter was written in order to be leaked in precisely this way. Already some UK newspapers and MPs on both sides of Parliament are seeing this for what it is, a smear campaign linked to Gibraltar's resistance to an Anglo-Spanish deal on sovereignty. Indeed this intention seems clear in that the principal UK press article also comments heavily about the media campaign funded by the Gibraltar Government in the British press against the prospect of an Anglo-Spanish deal being struck against the wishes of the Government and people of Gibraltar.

'Commenting on these press stories, Chief Minister Peter Caruana, who is on his way to New York to speak at the UN, said:

" We were warned by the UK media last week that certain sources within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were spinning these stories to them. It is quite sad really. A rather pathetic and crude attempt to smear Gibraltar and its Government in the context of the Foreign Office's desire to make sovereignty concessions to Spain. The purpose would appear to be to reduce parliamentary and public opinion support for Gibraltar in the UK, where Gibraltar's political campaign has been spectacularly successful. This looks like payback time for that and for the reception that Mr Straw got in Gibraltar. I am immensely proud of what the Government has done to deliver complete transparency in public finances and government generally. I am happy to be judged on our record. We will not be intimidated in our defence of Gibraltar."

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