BELIZE CITY, Mon. Oct 11, 2021– Last Friday, the Government of Belize issued a statement regarding the allegations made against the country in the released reports from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists called the Pandora Papers. In its five-point release, the Government says the leak creates an impression that illegal activities were taking place with Belize’s international financial srrvices (IFS), activities the government categorically denies.
The release from the Government of Belize states, “The reports of ICIJ about Belize, however, tends to create the impression and impute that there is something illegal or nefarious about the industry and practitioners in Belize who offer international financial services. “
As previously reported, the ICIJ’s Pandora Papers listed Belize as a prime tax and secrecy haven for the world’s wealthy elites. According to the ICIJ, a large number of the documents in the leaked trove name Belize and offshore practitioners in Belize as being involved in shady deals to facilitate tax evasion, in some instances money laundering cash for criminal elements.
The government denies that the IFS industry was ever used in that way domestically.
The release states, “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.”
“Although the ‘Pandora Papers’ characterize Belize as an “opaque jurisdiction” and “secretive tax haven”, the industry in Belize is in fact transparent,” the release adds.
The government states that the industry is “heavily regulated and underpinned by various pieces of legislation.”
Some legislation the government put in for the industry had to be upended and reformed by the Barrow administration in order for Belize to be removed from the EU’s blacklist.
“In the distant past, when it was felt that Belize’s regulations were not sufficiently transparent or robust, Belize, like several other IFS jurisdictions, came under scrutiny and pressure from global powers to become more tax transparent. We did so fully and without delay as a cooperative and transparent jurisdiction. 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 release states.
So, while the government asserts that the ISF industry in Belize “plays by the international rules”, at one point in the recent past we were marked internationally as a non-cooperative jurisdiction. Much of the information being released regarding the illicit business of offshore companies in Belize pre-dates 2019.
The release states that the country 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 release adds that the country places its reputation and high standard above all else, and says it remains committed to its transparent IFS industry which adheres to local laws and regulations and international best practices and ethical standards.
“Where service providers fall afoul of these laws and standards, then the relevant authorities in Belize are fully empowered and obliged to fully enforce the applicable laws in pursuit of any and all rule-breakers, “ the release from GOB states.