Posted: Friday, October 8, 2021. 5:34 pm CST.
By Hugh O’Brien: The Government of Belize (GOB) has come out in scathing defense of its international financial services (IFS) industry, in light of the releases and accusations made by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in the “Pandora Papers”.
In a statement released this evening, government said that “Belize’s international financial services industry is a legitimate and viable industry, and the Government of Belize does not countenance and will not permit the use of the industry to engage in money laundering, terrorism financing, corruption or any form of criminal or unlawful activity, whether in Belize or elsewhere”.
The “Pandora Papers” classified Belize as an “opaque jurisdiction” and a “secretive tax haven” and in so doing created the impression that there is something illegal about the industry and the practitioners who offer international financial services in Belize.
The accusations made by the ICIJ in the “Pandora Papers” may have more reference to the distant past when countries like Belize moved to establish the international financial industries services sector. The IFS industry and other financial tools were in fact created by the developed countries and introduced to countries like Belize as part of a major economic diversification into, and within, the services sector.
However, when Belize and other jurisdictions came under scrutiny for not having sufficiently transparent or robust regulations, Belize moved quickly to cooperate and become more transparent, particularly with regards to tax evasion. In fact, the GOB said “Belize met the deadline set by the OECD’s Forum on Harmful Tax Practices to remove tax features perceived as “harmful” from its IBC Regime and was assessed as compliant in January 2019 and later removed from the EU’s so-called Blacklist that same year”.
The government’s release also notes that “Belize very plainly plays by the international rules and complies with the standards set internationally and therefore rejects any suggestion by the ICIJ or any other party within or outside Belize of being anything but a reliable, responsible, and cooperative state among the international community of nations”.
The international financial services sector is a 50 million dollar industry in Belize and contributes greatly to employment and foreign exchange earnings for Belize. The Financial Intelligence Unit, the International Financial Services Commission and the Central Bank of Belize provide regulatory oversight to the industry. So far Belize has not faced any sanctions and if our industry was doing “illegal or nefarious” activities, the sector would have long faced severe sanctions, states the GOB.
“Belize places its reputation, high standards and the rule of law above all else,” the release ends.
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