‘Unacceptable Act Of Modern Colonialism’

May 3, 2018

“To legislate directly for an Overseas Territory would amount to an unacceptable act of modern colonialism,” Gibraltar’s Chief Minister said, adding that it would “overturn democracy in the relevant territory.”

In a letter sent to British MPs, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo said that Gibraltar is already “independently committed to the establishment of a public register of ultimate beneficial ownership when an international standard on this subject is agreed.”

“To legislate directly for an Overseas Territory would amount to an unacceptable act of modern colonialism which would in effect overturn democracy in the relevant territory,” Mr Picardo added.

“I cannot emphasise enough to you how unacceptable this is and how contrary to the direction of travel of the constitutional development of Gibraltar such a step would be be.

“It would be more than retrograde and would call into question the very nature of the relationship of consent and mutual respect which exists today between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom, which I am forever committed to.

“I have no doubt that fellow Chief Ministers and Premiers of the other Overseas Territories will express similar sentiments in respect of this aspect of your amendment.”

Mr Picardo’s comments follow after a Bill passed in the UK House of Commons that contains an amendment which would allow the UK to order Overseas Territories to make their beneficial ownership registers publicly accessible.

A beneficial ownership register is a database of information on business owners, and while most nations worldwide do not make theirs public, the UK does, with their register going public in 2016, reportedly the first nation in the world to do so.

The Bill seeks to use the UK’s power of an Order in Council to make the Overseas Territories introduce public ownership registers that adhere to guidelines set by the UK, with the Bill aiming to do this to Overseas Territories who have not made their registers public by 2020.

The position taken by Gibraltar is very similar to that of Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and Cayman, who have all made similar statements in recent days.

The Bermuda Government has previously stated that the island had maintained a register of beneficial owners for years, provides the information to official bodies at request, and is willing to make it public once it becomes world standard.

According to the official UK Parliament website, “The Bill was considered at Report Stage and Third Reading on Tuesday 1 May 2018 and passed with amendments.

“The Bill has passed all its Commons stages and will now be returned to the House of Lords, a stage known as ping pong. During ping pong, the Bill travels back and forth between the two Houses, until both Houses agree on the text of the Bill.”

The full letter from Gibraltar’s Chief Minister follows below [PDF here]

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