British newspaper blasts Nevis over financial secrecy

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Nevis Premier, Mark Brantley

By Caribbean News Now contributor

LONDON, England — Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday that some 70,000 companies incorporated in Nevis were leaked as part of the Paradise Papers investigation, and has painted Nevis as the “worst offender” among the world’s most secretive offshore haven.

In a lengthy feature, the British newspaper said Nevis is foremost among the countries that has stuck to the old practice of keeping the secrets of the powerful and has been implicated in some of the most sordid financial scams of modern times, from Britain’s biggest-ever tax fraud, to the fleecing of 620,000 vulnerable Americans in a $220 million payday loan scam

According to author Oliver Bullough, the years since 2008 have seen a global crackdown on offshore finance, and a few places have doubled down on offering secrecy to the super-rich. Among these is Nevis, which reveals the difficulties the world faces in trying to put an end to tax evasion, fraud and kleptocracy.

“While Nevis’s rivals have lost business by opening up, Nevis has doubled down on secrecy,” Bullough said.

The Guardian report also noted that tax havens are often lumped together as if they all do the same job.

“In the world of offshore, Nevis is a bottom-feeder. It specialises in letting its clients create corporations with greater anonymity than almost anywhere else on earth. Last year, information on 70,000 Nevisian companies was leaked as part of the Paradise Papers investigation, but that didn’t help us find out who owns them: ownership information is so secret there that even the island’s own corporate registry doesn’t know. In other words, there was nothing substantial to leak,” Bullough wrote.

Not surprisingly, Nevis premier, Mark Brantley, takes a different view.

“We feel very strongly that people are entitled to some semblance of financial privacy,” he said. “Why shouldn’t you be entitled to a secret?”

“The secrets don’t belong to residents of Nevis, of course: it would be hard to keep anything quiet for long on an island this size. The secrets belong to foreigners and are being kept from other foreigners, with Nevis getting paid to protect them.

“A Nevisian company is a closed book, and some people really like it that way,” Bullough wrote.

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