Premier David Burt says he remains confident Bermuda’s reputation will survive the fallout from the Paradise Papers.
In the House of Assembly on Friday, the Premier said “The reports of Bermuda’s demise are greatly exaggerated” and called for a “chorus of unity” in the wake of recent revelations contained in the hacked documents.
Earlier this week, an expert in compliance rules told the Royal Gazette newspaper that the island is “up the creek without a paddle” after the massive leak of documents stolen in a cyberattack on Bermuda-headquartered law firm Appleby, which also has offices in the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands.
The source, who asked not to be named, said: “This is actually really, really bad and it’s bad because it demonstrates Bermuda’s jurisdictional attitude to shifting public opinion and reality and the rather rigid line of legality.”
Burt told MPs a co-ordinated police criminal investigation into the hack is underway in several jurisdictions, including Bermuda, and said he had asked regulators to step up their game.
Burt said his sole concern was “Bermuda and her reputation”.
“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. 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.”
Bermuda found itself at the centre of an international storm after the Paradise Papers were made public last weekend.
The documents were unveiled after a year’s work by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who worked with nearly 100 media organisations around the world.
The files include financial statements, e-mails and loan arrangements going back decades. Around half of the documents came from the cyberattack on Appleby.
“To be sure, 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 rigour of our critics, ” said the Premier.
He added: “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.”
“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 we can now put an end to the 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.”
During the motion to adjourn, government backbencher Rolfe Commissiong said not all share the view that the Paradise Papers revelations are “nothing but a storm in a teacup”.
“Certainly what has been revealed thus far speaks to a degree of venality and greed that is unprecedented because what the revelations have done is remove a veil that for decades obscured the view of those who were using offshore locations such as ourselves to avoid carrying their fair share of taxes in their home countries,” he said.