Friday evening, 22nd January, residents of the Cayman Islands braced themselves as they waited to watch Jacques Perretti present Chalkboard TV’s ‘Britains Trillion Dollar Island” show on air BBC 2.
As advertised on BBC’s Iplayer Website; “Jacques Peretti travels to the Cayman Islands to investigate the controversial British tax haven – a place with the population of Bognor Regis but a trillion pounds in the bank.”
After many in Cayman had seen a provocative and scintillating promotional trailer that had done the rounds on social media, apparently used to pitch the show’s original brief to the BBC, some, especially those featured in the trailer were on tenterhooks…mostly because those two short minutes managed to capture the islands most flamboyant, pretentious and shallow sub-cultures which are not at all representative of the diverse, yet down to earth Caribbean island nation that Cayman is. It would be fair to say that some were ready to be uber-embarrassed!
Back to the show, Jacques seemed to arrive in Cayman ‘with a mission, should he decide to accept it’ of James Bond sized proportions that included glamour, excess and devious deceit. He came to the Cayman Islands to dig dirt on the tax haven scandal that wasn’t. Did he come to Cayman to find a Monaco in the tropics? The clichés flowed freely, and he certainly mentioned the word ‘billionaire’ enough times, managed to get a ride in two of the four Ferraris on the island, and he did find possibly the only ladies wearing high heels on the world famous Seven Mile Beach, but conveniently failed to mention that they were on a photo-shoot!
If only he had done his homework beforehand he could have spent his time getting an all-over tan, sampling some of the region’s best food and fresh farm produce, strolled around Camana Bay’s shops, and spoken to a far more representative set of people from different backgrounds, because that’s what Cayman is; individuals who live for a better quality of life, people who embrace family values, and those who want their independence from a big overbearing and overspending government…we could go on.
Jacques and his production team did not fully appreciate the separation of Cayman being a British Overseas Territory, we are by no means an ‘outpost’ and are proud to have never been a British Colony as some of the other Caribbean islands have. Nor is Cayman a nation of tax dodgers, as he awkwardly pointed out a pack of fish fingers costs £8.50 (he yet again conveniently omitted to say that you could buy twice as much fresh local snapper from the local fish market and support a local business), taxation is essentially much more indiscriminate and indirect in its framework, which is inherently linked to consumption.
Life in Cayman was historically based on its seafaring and maritime past, which still has an element of entrepreneurship perfectly blended with an island life attitude. The evolving culture is the backbone of the off-shore financial industry, but that’s not solely based on our tax neutrality, its also a highly sophisticated, world class and business friendly environment that also happens to be a really great place to live and work! Tourism is notably a large part of our GDP, but to say that each of our 58,000 residents is worth a $1m is misleading.
He did touch on the history of our Tax Free status and the Wreck of the Ten Sails. Rather than scratching the surface of the controversial Cayman, he could have dug deeper and gone further in demonstrating how the average Cayman resident works hard and earns an honest living (albeit tax free) but gives back to the community in many other ways, one of which is the large amount of charitable and service organizations that go the extra mile to help those in need. Cayman is not a divided country of ultra-rich and poor, we absolutely have those extremes but we have a majority middle class in a fully functioning, safe and stable socio-economic environment.
Jacques interviewed several people in business and government, for example Cayman’s own Marcus Cumber, a poster-child for our entrepreneurial culture as previously mentioned. As owner of Island Air and a restaurateur, Marcus effortlessly answered the leading questions in layman’s terms and steered Jacques away from making foregone conclusions. He very simply explained how international business practice works legitimately with companies registered in the Cayman Islands.
Cayman’s Premier, The Honourable Alden McLaughlin was not as cool in his response to Jacques relentless line, but still defended our honour. Hats and fascinators off to Governor Helen Kilpatrick who seemed to be quite bemused by the interview as she explained her appointment by the Queen and FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to oversee the islands affairs, and not to “shut Cayman down” as Jacques had suggested. Respect also goes to Paul Kennedy of Cayman 27 who was funny and kept Jacques in line.
With more tax information exchange agreements and transparency than almost any other country, large or small on the OECD’s list, Jacques’ mission to dig the dirt on the Cayman tax haven scandal was largely dashed, however we have to concede that the show was well shot and had some spectacular aerial footage from Airvu, and there were some of our favourite locations, especially for some of best real estate in Cayman; South Sound, Seven Mile Beach and Cayman Kai.
If you would like to learn more about living and working in the Cayman Islands, or investing in Cayman property please contact us. But please be aware that you will legitimately pay NO income, corporation, inheritance, corporate or annual property tax, sorry Jacques!
At the time of posting this piece, a far more balanced and informed article from Mr Peretti on the Cayman Islands has appeared in The Independent which, click here for a far less tabloid like article here.