The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has “strongly” objected to a move by the European Union to include a number of Caribbean countries on a list of global countries considered to be tax havens.
CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin la Rocque said the decision by Europe had ‘been based on new and unilaterally-determined criteria” and urged France to use its influence to reverse the “arbitrary and punitive actions” against the regional countries.
Earlier this month, EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels named St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago among a list of 17 countries considered to be global tax havens. They said the new list had been drawn up after 10 months of investigations by EU officials.
The ministers said the countries on the blacklist were not doing enough to crack down on offshore avoidance schemes. Potential sanctions that could be enforced on members of the list are expected to be agreed in the coming weeks.
The EU said that as a first step, a letter will be sent to all jurisdictions on the new list, explaining the decision and what they can do to be de-listed.
But as he accepted the credentials of Antoine Joly, the new French Ambassador to CARICOM, LaRocque said that regional countries had been blacklisted even though they have not been so labelled by the relevant regulatory authorities such as the Financial Action Task Force and the OECD Global Forum.
“This decision by the EU has been based on new and unilaterally-determined criteria, that go beyond the generally accepted international tax transparency and accountability standards which our countries have been diligently meeting over the past several years,” he said.
“CARICOM strongly objects to this listing of our member states and calls on the EU to remove our member states from this pernicious list,” he said, noting that the 15-member grouping stood ready to discuss the matter with the European Council.
A major consequence of “blacklisting” was the “de-risking” strategies that included the withdrawal of correspondent banking services by certain international banks, the CARICOM Secretary-General told the French envoy.
He said that the impact has had a “detrimental impact on the trade and financial operations” of the region’s economies.
“As Ambassador to the Community, your direct engagement in promoting awareness about the extent of our capabilities and the obstacles we face in our aspirations for economic development is of great significance,” he told the new French envoy.