What a difference a year makes. In the space of the past 12 months, the Cayman Islands and its plans for a searchable beneficial ownership platform, instead of a central register of beneficial ownership information, has gone from an impasse with the UK and the focal point of attacks by politicians across the G20 to being an accepted industry partner.
Global acceptance of Cayman's approach to collecting beneficial ownership information by licensed corporate service providers and providing access to the information to law enforcement officials, rather than the public central register and system of self-certification that former UK prime minister David Cameron had initially proposed, has come as Cayman agreed to join an initiative by the UK to develop an enhanced programme of information sharing. This programme will effectively lead to the sharing of information on the beneficial ownership of companies and trusts with the UK and other jurisdictions that take up Cayman's offer to participate in the new programme.
The Exchange of Notes agreement, signed by a delegation from the Cayman Islands on the cusp of a key Anti-Corruption Summit in the UK in April, builds on Cayman's record in participating in the global fight against financial crime. The crucial point for the Cayman financial services industry is that this will be without the use of a central register of beneficial ownership information, as the UK had originally intended, nor will any information be accessible by the public.
The key to this agreement was a visit to the Cayman Islands by senior representatives from the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), two months earlier, when the proposed improvements to the current system of reporting beneficial ownership information were examined. Having met with Cayman Islands Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin and Minister of Financial Services, Wayne Panton, the UK delegation were convinced that Cayman's proposed system would be "a similarly effective, viable alternative to the UK's approach of a central register," Minister Panton said in a statement after the 23 February meeting. The Cayman Islands proposals, which are still being finalised include a non-public, centralised platform, which would be accessed locally, which Cayman officials said would be an additional enhancement to the nation's current, strong anti-money-laundering regime. Cayman law has already required for some time that corporate service providers...