Saturday, April 18, 2009


I am going to revisit two of my blogs of this week to make some additional comments.

To start let me restate my position on the right to demonstrate. In a democracy I believe we have the basic right to peacefully express our views by marching or holding protests.

Furthermore I believe it is one of the tasks of the British police force to ensure we are able to practice that right without hindrance.

I do not believe that being in a democracy gives us the right to riot, cause damage or abuse the police verbally or physically. I do believe the police have the right to protect themselves, property and members of the public.

During the G20 protests in London there were thousands of police on duty. The vast majority performed their tasks within the law and in a praiseworthy manner. Sadly there are those who did not and we are now seeing the fall-out from those tragedies.

If there are officers who were guilty of assault, if there are officers who have a culture of violence, if there are sections of the force that are trained and instructed to act inappropriately, and there are senior officers who attempted to cover us such acts – then they must be rooted out and dealt with.

However the events surrounding the G20 in London and just days later the violence that erupted in Strasbourg at the NATO Summit are starkly different. In France for example, they have a trained riot police, whose methods would simply not be accepted in Britain but whose actions were applauded by their political masters in that country.

It is right that in Britain we demand the highest standards of our police. It is right also that when a section of the force or individual officers break the law they were set up to defend – they should be punished, and heavily. However let us be careful not to blacken the name of an entire police force and that of thousands of good officers – because that would not be democratic either.

I close with Gibraltar and its off-shore status. On the day I wrote my blog on the OECD Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, sent a missive to the UK’s tax havens including Gibraltar informing them that they had to meet international transparency standards by signing 12 bilateral tax agreement by November or face sanctions.

The facts are these: Gibraltar signed an accord to meet the OECD’s standards in 2002 then sat on its hands for seven years and did nothing. Ahead of the G20 meeting it hurriedly signed a tax agreement with the USA but has seen itself demoted down the OECD’s list of “Good Guys”. Under the threat of sanctions the British Government has now given the Rock till November to get its house in order.

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, says he is confident that they would meet that timetable. A miracle – 13 agreements in seven months after seven years of doing nothing.

So it still begs the questions why did Gibraltar sign the agreement in 2002 then do nothing when it could have acted and been the pace-setter amongst off-shore tax havens?

Why has it given the strong critics of tax havens a sitting target – because even if it now complies it will be the threat of sanctions that is held up as the reason – when it could have been the model off-shore centre all others were made to follow?


Cybernest said...

Good day Sancho...

I have to say I find your insistence on singling out Gibraltar, castigating it in the manner you do, accusing Gibraltar of "sitting on its hands" on the issue of tax transparency and bilateral agreements... a little (if not very) unfair and rather unbalanced.

Excepting the Isle of Mann and the Channel Islands, who do not depend wholly on themselves for funding their economies, Gibraltar, has done as much if not more than many other jurisdictions, in making sure they adhere to international standards as best it can, within the framework of the OECD and in the context of very competitive markets of offshore tax jurisdictions.

Gibraltar does not have a manufacturing base or the ability to earn revenue externally from agriculture or other means of production and exporting. It therefore has to rely for its income largely from two sources, tourism and the offshore financial centre.

Gibraltar is also not able to rely on other funding (nor does it wish to) from any outside sources, such as the UK as the Isle of Mann and the other Channel Islands jurisdictions in Jersey or Guernsey can do.

It is therefore hardly surprising that Gibraltar has not run around signing up to bilateral agreements with others thereby putting itself in a less attractive position... when compared to other jurisdictions, that also have not adhered to the OECD list (of 'jurisdictions that have committed to the internationally agreed tax standards' but that have not yet substantially implemented these agreements)... and not signed up to tax transparency agreements... countries such as Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Singapore and Bermuda. Nevertheless, on tax transparency issues, as I posted the other day,
Gibraltar IS committed to the OECD 'tax haven' delisting and tax sharing agreements!

Issues on tax transparency are not the 'be all and end all' on offshore finance centres. In order to offer a more balanced view On Gibraltar's Finance Centre, you should also note other matters that the Gibraltar authorities are in the forefront of, as an offshore finance jurisdiction.

Far from "sitting on its hands", through the Financial Services Commission, Gibraltar has ensured it runs a very effective and well regulated Finance Centre... probably better than most. Have a look for yourself on the issue Gibraltar is most often wrongly criticised for... Gibraltar Financial Services Commission > Anti Money Laundering Provisions. On this page, you will see how the FSC openly addresses questions such as:

* What is Gibraltar’s record in the fight against money laundering?
* Does Gibraltar comply with international standards?
* What areas need updating?
* Does the fact that Gibraltar has a large company and trust management industry make it vulnerable to money launderers?
* Isn’t Gibraltar soft on some money laundering such as tax evasion?
* What are the main risks to Gibraltar from launderers?
* How have Gibraltar’s anti-money laundering provisions been verified?
* How does Gibraltar work with others in the fight against money laundering?
* Summary of the anti-money laundering provisions

You will see from this page and from a lot of other information provided 'transparently' on the FSC website, that Gibraltar, far from 'sitting on its hands' does a great deal to ensure it provides a effective and very well regulated Offshore Finance Centre, recognised as such by the IMF and other international regulatory bodies, including the OECD!

Whilst I believe it is right, in a democratic system of free enterprise, that it is a good thing to keep the regulators under scrutiny and of course Governments, I also think in fairness, these issues need to be put into context and any criticism should be a little more balanced than that normally aimed at Gibraltar.... perhaps unlike you have done on your post here today. Which is why I thought I would take the opportunity to redress this... with my comment... and I thank you for allowing me to do so! :)

Cybernest said...

Oh and I would also just like to make a little comment on the matter of the Policing of the G20 demonstrations.

Whilst I agree largely with much of what you say... it is also clear that something very iffy has gone on here... enough to bring the Met Police into public question once more.

It only takes one or two rotten apples for the public to lose confidence in the Police that serves them. This was already much in focus, through a number of other issues of public interest in the months leading up to the G20 Summit.

The behaviour of a minority within the Met Police, in the way they acted during the G20 demos, clearly using disproportionate force, albeit it in very difficult and trying circumstanes... is not doing anything to improve public confidence in them... in fact, quite the reverse. This is a matter of great regret and concern.

In the matter of the death of Ian Tomlinson and the subsequent clear discrepancies in the autopsies revealed yesterday... this is even more disturbing, as it seems that some sort of cover up has gone on subsequent to events, at levels over and above simple individual policing. Very worrying indeed. I hope the IPCC investigation which is now going on deals with these issues quickly, transparently and very very firmly. Otherwise... I fear the Met Police will lose the public's confidence completely... yours truly included!

Cybernest said...

Appropos my last comment... here's a quote from Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, who said in the Evening Standard today:

"The clock is ticking for the IPCC. This is a body we want to believe in but they are not proving themselves capable. It appointed the City of London Police to investigate itself and that has been exposed as a shocking mistake. (The IPCC had previously said there is no CCTV coverage of the Tomlinson incident!)

The IPCC's first big test was the Jean Charles de Menezes case and it failed that test shockingly.

Now they have another chance and they better not fail this time."

Mark Tanner said...

Gibraltar has shot itself in the foot. Spain has for a long time heavily criticised the off-shore haven of the Rock. Whether Spain's arguments were right or wrong doesn't matter - its the perception. Now Gibraltar has received a warning from Brown it will be used to highlight the Rock's lack of transparency when it could have avoided this deadline by compliance.

Anonymous said...

Anybody who has lived under the former regimes in East Germany or Russia knows only too well what a police state is like - and it certainly isn't what exists in Britain. None the less police officers who take the law in to their own hands or batons must be singled out and feel the full weight of the law!

Anthony said...

Gibraltar was encouraged to develop its off shore financial centre as compensation for the closure of its naval dockyard. The British Government largely turned a blind eye to the lack of supervision and now that albatros is coming home to roost.

Cybernest said...

In reply to Mark Tanner who said... Now Gibraltar has received a warning from Brown it will be used to highlight the Rock's lack of transparency when it could have avoided this deadline by compliance.Gordon Brown's letter was directed at ALL British AND UK offshore jurisdictions or so called 'tax havens', NOT JUST Gibraltar. Namely... the seven UK overseas territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos. Brown's letter also included the UK territorites as he sought to increase pressure on Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man – UK crown dependencies also on the OECD list.

Source: / UK / Politics and policy - Brown warns tax havens to complyIn reply to Anthony who said... The British Government largely turned a blind eye to the lack of supervision and now that albatros is coming home to roost.With the greatest respect Anthony...that's a load of ill-informed rubbish!! If you bothered to check your facts you would have found that Gibraltar's offshore finance centre is constantly under a great deal of scrutiny in the UK Parliament. All you have to do is visit and search their archives. A casual check for "Gibraltar Offshore" showed up over 300 instances of questions in BOTH Houses of Parliament regarding Gibraltar's finance centre in the recent past.

In the EU... if you bother to check, you will find many many instances, including cases that have gone to the European Courts of First Instance (where Gibraltar has mainly won nearly all cases) and again been very much scrutinised by the EU... under the auspices of Gibraltar's EU membership through the UK's own membership! Now... no one (at least no one well informed) would categorise this hardly as... "turning a blind eye"!

The reality is that Gibraltar (and many of the other British and UK crown dependent jurisdictions) have largely been accepted by a number of respective UK Governments, including the present Administration, to run efficient and well policed jurisdictions. In his recent letter.., Brown also stressed the importance of the tax information sharing deal reached between Gibraltar and the US, and acknowledged that Gibraltar was in well-advanced negotiations with other countries, so again, clearly not "turning a blind eye"! If anything, what Brown is up to is covering his ass (as per usual) in the context of his pretence at leadership for the G20 countries... in the face of the difficulties all are facing in the Global economy and in the fight to avoid further global recession! That.. is more what Brown's letter is about... sleight of hand spin that takes the focus away from his own Government's largely self created difficulties.. and much less concern about how Gibraltar's (or other British and UK) offshore jurisdictions handle themselves.

Oh and Anthony... no 'albatross is coming home to roost' in Gibraltar. As a major world centre for bird migration, we are well used to these and other 'crows' just passing through... and moving along quite harmlessly and peaceably... even though, in their passing, they occasionally do sh**t on us from a great height!

Saludos! :)

Cybernest said...

Good day Peeps!

In a comment over the weekend (see above) I posted a link to Gibraltar's Financial Services Commission... and I have just noticed this link is not working... somehow a stray 'k' got into the code!

The correct... and working link is this: Gibraltar Financial Services Commission > Anti Money Laundering ProvisionsMy apologies!

Btw... I'm just writing a follow up post to Sancho's post here... so watch this space! :)

Saludos! :)