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OECS leaders criticise Europe over tax haven blacklist

Published:Wednesday | July 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell.

Leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have ended a meeting in Grenada criticising the European Union over its decision to blacklist several Caribbean countries as tax havens.

In addition, the leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the French island of Martinique who met there on Monday, also agreed that the issue would be further discussed at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit that opens in Barbados on Thursday.

"We said we are going to aggressively pursue getting this thing to be removed. It is not a positive assessment so, therefore, it is something we must move to get rid of and that's why, collectively, we are going to do whatever we have to do and we are taking our case to the CARICOM region, because Barbados was also named," said OECS Chairman and host Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.

"Historically, Barbados is known as the most compliant country in the Caribbean, so having Barbados on the list makes the thing even more ridiculous," he added.

"It is a big surprise, the methodology used in assessing those countries is quite flawed and, in fact, I believe today it is more an embarrassment to the European Union than the original statement that they made. It is a big embarrassment to them," Mitchell told reporters at the end of the summit.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, whose country was among the 13 Caribbean nations listed by Europe as being tax havens, said the list is flawed and even baffling given that the official regulators, including the Global Forum in Europe, had found the Caribbean countries to be very compliant.

"There was no prior warning, and we note, too, that the countries in Europe with whom we have significant trade relations, the United Kingdom as an example, Germany, France, they did not make any such assessment," Browne said.

"However, there are some other countries with whom we have little relations and I believe, too, they have little knowledge of the Caribbean. They have deemed us to be uncooperative ... and they have also classified us as tax havens," he added.

At least 13 Caribbean countries have been named by the EU, which said the blacklisting comes amid a crackdown on multinational companies trying to avoid paying tax in the 28-nation bloc.

The European Commission is proposing reforms to end sweetheart tax deals following a series of investigations into arrangements between EU countries and firms including Amazon, Apple and Starbucks.

Last week, the head of the delegation of the European Union to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Mikael Barford, said that the decision to release the list of international tax havens should not be regarded as an attempt to blacklist any country.