A retired local businessman whose name appeared in documents in the Panama Papers leak said he was confused and at a loss over the development.
However, Peter Boos admitted he “acted as trustee for many different companies” and “for many people who established companies around the world”.
“I think it is very confusing to most people,” Boos said of the scandal surrounding the unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
The documents revealed the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.
The former Ernst & Young chairman defended offshore financial centres such as the British Virgin Islands [BVI] and Barbados, insisting there was nothing illegal or unusual about their practices.
“These countries provide the legal framework for which people can plan their affairs, whether it is what they call asset protection or wealth protection, it can be for confidentiality reasons. There are a host of reasons,” he explained.
“There are literally thousands of companies incorporated in the BVI and they are perfectly legal. There is nothing illegal about it at all,” he insisted.
However, Boos acknowledged that unscrupulous people could use the legal structures for corrupt practices, but he cautioned against succumbing to the temptation of sullying every jurisdiction because of the actions of a few.
“So you got a situation, if you like, the whole pool is tainted. It is like putting a spot of black ink in a glass of milk, to use an extreme example. But most people, because of the nature of reporting on it, will focus on the black spot, the drop of ink that taints the pool, but the pool is really legitimate and legal activity conducted by the major professional organizations, banks, major legal firms, the major accounting firms and other people in the financial services . . . But all of a sudden people have made it out to be that something is wrong or illegal,” he explained.
Boos told Barbados TODAY that while the scandal tended to focus on some small jurisdictions, including the BVI and the Cayman Islands, the larger countries such as the United States and many in Europe were also facilitators of “the same exact type of planning”.
Following the Panama Papers leak, local private sector executives warned of a possible slowdown in new international business activity. They also warned that Barbados and other offshore jurisdictions would be subjected to greater scrutiny as part of the fallout.
Executive Director of the Barbados International Business Association Henderson Holmes had also told Barbados TODAY the island did not have a reputation for secrecy and was perceived as a
well-regulated jurisdiction that insisted on transparency. However, he said then, he was concerned that the island would still be “tarred with the same brush” as other jurisdictions.