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What Do You Know About the Cayman Islands? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Cayman Islands lie in the Caribbean Sea, and they have become known as a safe haven for companies that want to avoid tax payments, as well as a headquarters for banks and accounts that want to distance themselves from surveillance and strict laws. Therefore the island has been transformed over time into a safe haven for the accounts of legitimate and illegitimate businessmen.

Today the Cayman Islands are the fifth largest banking center in the world, and it sees transactions amounting to 1.5 trillion dollars. According to 2008 statistics, 279 banks operate on the islands, however of these only 19 are licensed to conduct banking activities with domestic based Cayman clients, while the rest deal solely with “international” clients. The Cayman Island banking system was placed on a blacklist in 2000 due to its involvement in money laundering cases, the Cayman Islands were also threatened to be placed on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] blacklist. Whilst on 4 May 2009, US President Barack Obama made a speech in which he described the Cayman Islands as being a shelter for those who wish to avoid paying taxes; this resulted in the Cayman Island authorities issuing a letter the very next day outlining their commitment to improving the economic climate of the Cayman Islands, as well as commitments to combat money laundering and apply strict international laws to this effect.

A small piece of information: the population of these islands stands at just 56,000, so it is easy to imagine the magnitude of the benefit to the island population from “suspicious” financial activity. According to international statistics, the island’s population enjoys good wages in line with the most developed countries, and this is definitely relative to the low population of the Cayman Islands.

What has all of this got to do with the Arab world? Have patience, all will be revealed.

The Cayman Islands courts are dealing with a complex and major financial case in which a businessman has been implicated and he has had all of his assets seized. Thousands of documents have been provided confirming that this businessman forged the signatures of figures who he claimed granted him the authority to carry out suspicious financial transactions on their behalf. Some of these people have died, and among those living are people who are unable to walk or even talk! The accusations do not stop here, and the Central Bank of Bahrain has provided evidence against this man that implicate him in cases of money laundering. The Cayman Islands today face an important international test with regards to its financially troubled reputation and whether it can take a firm stance against financial inconsistencies, violations, and serious crimes. The legal consequences of what is happening in the Cayman Islands will set an important legal precedent that emphasizes the global nature of economic and financial crimes, as well as stressing that the harm down to the global financial system must stop and that perpetrators of such crimes should be punished regardless of who they are. This is a cancer that must be fought as ignoring this will only help this cancer to spread, therefore the place that this cancer originated is not important. These are technical details that should not contradict the most important target, which is putting an end to such crimes. The financial world will carefully observe the Cayman authorities reaction to such crimes, and how they deals with evidence, documents, and witnesses. This will be an important step to restoring things to normal, repairing a grave mistake, and recovering from a tremendous lie and delusion. Today the Cayman authorities find themselves under international pressure to detect fraud and crime being committed by the banks. If this does genuinely take place this would represent a courageous step equivalent to the brave steps taken by Bahrain via the Central Bank of Bahrain and the Bahraini Attorney-General.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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