Premier David Burt On Paradise Papers

November 10, 2017 | 28 Comments

“Bermuda’s reputation will survive this latest series of events” and the island’s “leadership as a cooperative jurisdiction for tax transparency, inclusive of our over 70 year old central registry on beneficial ownership is a key reason why the attacks being made on Bermuda in relation to the Paradise Papers are untrue.”

These were a few of the statements made by Premier and Minister of Finance David Burt in the House of Assembly today [Nov 10], where he addressed the Paradise Papers.

Premier Burt is interviewed by the UK’s BBC earlier this week:

The Premier said, “That great friend and frequent visitor to Bermuda, Mark Twain reacted to the rumor that he had passed away by telling a reporter: ‘The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.’

“After this week’s international and local media coverage arising out of the release of hacked information now known as ‘The Paradise Papers’, many are privately wondering what the impact of this will be on Bermuda.

“Let me put Honourable Members and the international press, our friends and our competitors on notice: The reports of Bermuda’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

“To be sure, Mr. Speaker, this is not the coverage we would have wished for but in these times when onshore interests are ascendant at the expense of offshore livelihoods, we must meet falsehoods and inaccuracies with facts.

“The unassailable facts are: Bermuda is not a tax haven and this is not a jurisdiction to hide money, our regulatory regime is internationally known to be robust, fair and respected, and Bermuda’s reputation is one that stands equal to any international measurement and in some cases exceeds the regulatory rigor of our critics.”

Premier Burt added, “I am confident that Bermuda’s reputation will survive this latest series of events. Within the government, targeted action has been taken to manage the continuing impact of this disclosure.

“All relevant ministries are working together to coordinate responses as required, but more importantly to strengthen systems of oversight where necessary and communicating clearly that Bermuda is the same, sound place to do business it has always been.

“There have been calls for Bermuda to make our beneficial ownership register public. I would like to emphasise that the Bermuda government has already made a commitment to the government of the United Kingdom that once this has become an international requirement adopted by all members of the G20, we will certainly comply. But until that time we will continue to encourage other countries to come up to the level of the “Bermuda Standard”

“In relation to this data breach, I can confirm that a coordinated police criminal investigation is underway in several jurisdictions including Bermuda and there is the usual cooperation among law enforcement agencies in the jurisdictions under British control which includes the UK National Crime Agency.

“I can also confirm that the Government has been and continues to be in contact with all relevant competent authorities in Bermuda including the Bermuda Monetary Authority to ensure that any new matters raised by the Paradise Papers can be properly reviewed and that any action that may arise from that review be taken in a timely, effective and proactive manner.”

The Premier’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker,

That great friend and frequent visitor to Bermuda, Mark Twain reacted to the rumor that he had passed away by telling a reporter: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” After this week’s international and local media coverage arising out of the release of hacked information now known as “The Paradise Papers”, many are privately wondering what the impact of this will be on Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker,

Let me put Honourable Members and the international press, our friends and our competitors on notice: The reports of Bermuda’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

To be sure, Mr. Speaker, this is not the coverage we would have wished for but in these times when onshore interests are ascendant at the expense of offshore livelihoods, we must meet falsehoods and inaccuracies with facts. The unassailable facts are:

  • Bermuda is not a tax haven and this is not a jurisdiction to hide money
  • our regulatory regime is internationally known to be robust, fair and respected
  • Bermuda’s reputation is one that stands equal to any international measurement and in some cases exceeds the regulatory rigor of our critics

Mr. Speaker,

I do not propose to descend into the legitimate client advice and services provided by the law firm in question, or I dare say, by others operating in similar spheres. The international obsession with what foreign nationals do with their fortunes is a matter for them and cannot be laid at the feet of jurisdictions whose business it is to provide legitimate, legal vehicles for financial planning.

Mr. Speaker,

The Paradise Papers reveal something of interest to every reader. My sole concern in this matter is Bermuda and her reputation. Mr. Speaker, let me be clear, it is not my responsibility to defend any one entity named or involved in this scenario. If what they have done for their clients in this jurisdiction and beyond is illegal there are proper authorities who will deal with that.

I am charged with defending Bermuda and this I will do without fear or favor. I have privately urged regulators of all stripes to step up their game and to use the fullest extent of their powers to make sure that regulated entities meet their obligations. I believe this is the best way to address adverse publicity: actions will speak louder than words.

Most importantly, Mr. Speaker, is the reality of the partnership required to make Bermuda work; not just in times of crisis but all the time.

Too often our local politics are used to stoke the flames of division between political parties and the financial services sector of this country. This is not a game and so perhaps now we can put an end to the petty “nickel and dime” approach to travel and face the stark reality that more than ever, on this issue, Bermuda needs a chorus of unity and not the dissonance of partisan dissent.

Mr. Speaker,

I am confident that Bermuda’s reputation will survive this latest series of events. Within the government, targeted action has been taken to manage the continuing impact of this disclosure. All relevant ministries are working together to coordinate responses as required, but more importantly to strengthen systems of oversight where necessary and communicating clearly that Bermuda is the same, sound place to do business it has always been.

Mr. Speaker,

As I have done repeatedly throughout this week, through press statements and interviews, both nationally and internationally, I would like to “set the record” straight. Bermuda’s leadership as a cooperative jurisdiction for tax transparency, inclusive of our over 70 year old central registry on beneficial ownership is a key reason why the attacks being made on Bermuda in relation to the Paradise Papers are untrue. Bermuda seeks to attract quality clients who wish to conduct business in a country that is committed to a high level of compliance with international standards.

Mr. Speaker,

Bermuda is a leader in Tax Transparency and was in fact the first UK Overseas Territory to join the OECD Country by Country [CbC] automatic exchange of information regime to automatically exchange 2016 fiscal year information on companies with global tax authorities. Bermuda is also among the Early Adopters to exchange 2016 calendar year financial account information with various tax authorities around the globe under the common reporting standard [CRS] automatic exchange of information regime.

This and other such information will be automatically provided on an annual basis to the relevant tax partners under these and other similar agreements. We also have in place agreements that allow us to exchange information by request with over 100 tax treaty partners. Further, I would note that we have and will continue to cooperate with international organisations to cement our leadership as a cooperative jurisdiction for tax transparency.

Mr. Speaker,

The OECD, which you will recall I visited several weeks ago, made constructive comments at the beginning of this week amongst the media hype caused by the agenda driven ICIJ. The OECD Secretary General Mr. Angel Gurria was quoted in the Financial Times saying that the problems shown in the leaks were a “legacy issue” and there was now “quite literally no place to hide. But while the OECD is largely satisfied by the progress made by the offshore centres, some governments would like to go much further.”

Mr. Speaker,

Considerable time and attention has been spent in this House and in the Senate enacting laws to ensure that Bermuda has a strong and robust regulatory and legislative framework that is compliant with the ever changing international standards. Our regulatory, law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies have the required powers to monitor and enforce compliance and our track record demonstrates that we are willing to use these powers when persons fail to comply with the law.

As a Government we will not tolerate persons using our shores to carry out or facilitate illegal activity and will continue to encourage strong and decisive action if there is evidence of such activity.

Mr. Speaker,

Bermuda has had a beneficial ownership register for more than 70 years and that, along with our commitment to Tax Transparency, has contributed to the reputation that Bermuda has as a quality international centre – a reputation which is well-deserved.

This has been a key factor that has attracted a considerable number of insurance and reinsurance companies to set up their headquarters here and conduct business from our shores. This industry provides significant benefit to the citizens in the United States and the world. As I have stated on a number of occasions, Bermuda is a great place to raise capital but not the place to hide capital.

Mr. Speaker,

There have been calls for Bermuda to make our beneficial ownership register public. I would like to emphasise that the Bermuda government has already made a commitment to the government of the United Kingdom that once this has become an international requirement adopted by ALL members of the G20, we will certainly comply. But until that time we will continue to encourage other countries to come up to the level of the “Bermuda Standard”

Mr. Speaker,

In relation to this data breach, I can confirm that a coordinated police criminal investigation is underway in several jurisdictions including Bermuda and there is the usual cooperation among law enforcement agencies in the jurisdictions under British control which includes the UK National Crime Agency.

I can also confirm that the Government has been and continues to be in contact with all relevant competent authorities in Bermuda including the Bermuda Monetary Authority to ensure that any new matters raised by the Paradise Papers can be properly reviewed and that any action that may arise from that review be taken in a timely, effective and proactive manner.

Mr. Speaker,

In closing, I would like to reinforce that Bermuda is committed to being a quality international financial centre, with a strong and robust regulatory framework and a leader in Tax Transparency.

We will continue to exchange financial and other information with other countries automatically or by request, as appropriate to minimize the risk that persons/entities will use our borders to undertake their nefarious activities. Where such acts are discovered we will use our comprehensive suite of powers to ensure that these matters are addressed to the full extent of the law.

In the days and weeks ahead, when other news shifts this from front pages and online special reports, Bermuda will still be a jurisdiction of choice based on the effort we collectively bring to bear now.

I wish to assure the people of Bermuda that while it may seem that all our efforts are devoted to these issues, this Government is bringing equal energy to delivering on the promises we made to the ordinary, hardworking Bermudians who elected us to represent them. This is our commitment to the people. The depth and breadth of our energy and skill is such that we can meet this challenge, emerge stronger and continue the work of building a fairer and better Bermuda.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

click here Bermuda Paradise Papers 1

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Comments (28)

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  1. Bermmanymanymanymen says:

    Handled himself fairly well under the circumstances…bit repetitive…Now let’s see if he comments on the “Contribution of the AC35″……………….

    • Ringmaster says:

      Never happen. For one thing he would need to accept that his 100 day promise of wi-fi in all public schools was nothing to do with the PLP but because the ACEA donated all their equipment to Government (see Legacy Report).

  2. Real Onion says:

    Burt and blind followers may think they will weather this storm,but the rest of the (real) world knows otherwise!

    Do NOT be lulled into a false sense of security by the ramblings of the plp.

  3. Navin Johnson says:

    Can a company like Apple create a company in Bermuda through a local law firm and run revenue through Bermuda thus avoiding tax? Yes? We are a tax haven..

  4. Ringmaster says:

    Yet the Minister of Tourism and Economic Development introduces a bill to override an Independent Gaming Commission so he has control. That’s not good Governance especially in light of the PLP’s history of fiscal incompetence. IB needs stability and do not want to see a Government passing laws to suit itself.
    What’s next? Renege on the Exempt Companies Act, extended by the PLP until 2035? That would really get the exodus moving, started by the PLP’s rash ideas in mid 2000′s such as introducing Sven and Johnny. Bermuda is making itself look like a banana republic, which is definitely not what is needed after the Paradise Papers.

  5. Charles says:

    At the sametime as David Burt was leading the chorus of “The Storm is Over” Former Primie Minster Gordon Brown penned an open letter to garnish support for a Tax Haven crack down. If it gets 1 million signitures, it will be presented to the G20. It is up to 750 thousand last time I checked.

  6. sandgrownan says:

    Burt is out of his depth. He really needs to stop talking.

  7. nerema says:

    “…so perhaps now we can put an end to the petty “nickel and dime” approach to travel…”
    And there you have the real reason for the speech. They lying self-serving slimeballs want to go back to travelling like billionaires paid for by us.
    And you effin idiots voted for this.

  8. Morant says:

    As an upstanding citizen of Bermuda, whom would like to see his country flourish under the British Dependency Laws as it always has, I request a plane ticket back home from England to discuss further plans for my budget….

  9. Well stated, Burt.
    Your talent as Premier , your education and your smarts tremendously surpasses what was in place prior!!
    Simply outstanding…Bermuda for Bermudians FIRST!!
    We are super proud that YOU are our Premier!!

  10. Ringmaster says:

    Premier Burt is a politician, and he knows what wins elections. Taking a quote from the film the American President and the speech given by Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) two things win elections: “Make people afraid of it and tell them who’s to blame”. That certainly worked here in July, and in the UK politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, also a Labour leader, will be whipping up his voters using the rich people not paying there share of tax so you have to pay method. It’s very effective and will win over a populace who believes what they want to hear. Just saying Bermuda is not a tax haven over and over again won’t work. Premier Burt is on the other side of the argument and battling against the fear element and he knows full well how effective that is.

  11. meh. says:

    Well done Premiere Burt,

    Headed into a very hostile situation and handled himself very well. Didn’t get emotional, didn’t deviate from the facts- i think he defended Bermuda very well. And regardless of your domestic political opinions I think all Bermudians have to rally against external attacks like this.

    On another point – that interviewer has no respect- yes the british interview style is punchy like that but she was still talking to the leader of a nation – try not interrupting him every time or ignoring his points.

  12. Toodle-oo says:

    *she was still talking to the leader of a nation *

    LOL , more like she was talking to the Premier of a 20.8 sq mile island village .
    The town that the interviewer lives in probably has more people and acreage than we do .

  13. Confussed says:

    Bermuda faces many challenges from the outside world. When i view the comments on political post, i cant help but wonder what type of people will pull down their own. The level of comments are neither constructive or helpful. This could be a forum for positive discussion and dialog. I just wish we would think before we bring our fellow citizens down.

  14. Alvin Williams says:

    Ether you want Bermuda to survive economically or you do not? every since the revelations have been reveal on off shore business and it’s impact on low tax jurisdictions like Bermuda ; there has been a decidedly anti-Bermudian tone reflected in these posts directed towards premier Burt in his efforts to put Bermuda’s case forward. This is coming from the political element that lost the political verdict of July 18. It is clear that they can not accept the former OBA government losing control of the government and now have decided to play the role of a fifth column determine to undermine Bermuda just because who is in control of the government. What we must do is identify such fifth column elements and expel them from our country.

    • bee says:

      you mean like the Peoples Campaign?

    • Ringmaster says:

      So the OBA let the expat Rev Tweed/Geneveive to stay in Bermuda even as he demonstrated against the Government?

      There are several of your so called fifth columnists in the Government based on recent utterances and proposed legislation. Add in all the anti Bermudian PLP voters and demonstrators who were hell bent on destroying the OBA from day 1 and anything positive they did such as AC35. There won’t be many people left in Bermuda. No one to pay taxes and support pensions for example.

    • Zevon says:

      The only purpose of his speech was to tell us he is going to be spending what he likes when he travels from now on, with no thought to keeping costs low.
      Keeping costs under control is “nickel and diming”, according to Burt. He’s a Big Spender when it’s not his money.

    • Rights for All says:

      Despite what many might want, Bermuda is still a democracy which permits free speech. The same free speech the Peoples Campaign and others used to demonstrate against the OBA. What you want is a dictatorship and it may well be Bermuda goes towards that road with the PLP. If so watch out. Funny you enjoyed attacking the OBA but now the shoe is on the other foot.

      Premier Burt needs to take back control of his Government as it is clear there are several who see him as a repeat of the Dame Jennifer Smith years.

    • Sage says:

      Do you proof read your poor English??

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