The release of the 'Paradise Papers' – the so-called leak of confidential documents belonging to law firm Appleby – revealing investments in tax havens by individuals and companies, is nothing more than an "illegal hack" of files padded up by sensationalist reporting, according to Guernsey Finance chief executive Dominic Wheatley.
Guernsey, which is a British Crown dependency, itself named in the documents as a hub for many offshore activities revealed in the papers, has come in for severe criticism along with other offshore havens. However, Wheatley said Wednesday (8 November) that much of the criticism centred on lack of transparency is untrue.
"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.
"The coverage has attempted to portray that a lack of transparency exists in offshore finance centres, but in the case of Guernsey that is simply not true."
Wheatley said the early adoption of global initiatives such as the Common Reporting Standard evidences Guernsey's long-standing commitment to global standards of transparency and information exchange – standards that have been endorsed by the likes of the OECD, the EU and the IMF.
"Privacy and valuing client confidentiality as we do in Guernsey should not be conflated with secrecy. Indeed, we are completely committed to making available verified and accurate data in a timely manner to appropriate tax and criminal investigative authorities. The establishment of our central register of beneficial ownership earlier this year, put Guernsey in line with the very highest standards in the world in this regard," he added.
Guernsey Finance boss said the Crown dependency is one of the few places to regulate trust and corporate services providers and was among the first to do so, all the way back in 2000, well before revelations of the last decade.
"This strong fiduciary regulation has ensured higher service standards and protection for consumers. It has also provided a mechanism to reinforce our anti-money laundering (AML) regime and ensure that comprehensive information on the source of funds and the identities of ultimate beneficial owners of such structures are always obtained and kept up to date."
Guernsey's AML and anti-terror financing regime when assessed by Moneyval, a body of the Council of Europe tasked with assessing the measures in place to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism, scored the highest standard of any jurisdiction so far assessed when measured against the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.
"By having such necessary standards in place Guernsey is able to reinforce its position within the mainstream of international finance," Wheatley said.
"This allows the island to act as a tax-neutral facilitator of global investment into the UK, Europe and global economies which brings about substantial economic and social benefits to those countries. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that Guernsey is a significant part of the broader UK finance industry and the City of London."