It has been nine days since the leak of the Pandora Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The papers surround over one hundred leaders and celebrities dabbling in offshore banking, primarily used to evade taxes. Belize was listed multiple times in the papers, as the country has often been dubbed a tax haven. Specifically mentioned was Glenn D Godfrey and Company and CIL (sill) Trust International. Glenn Godfrey is one of Belize’s former Attorney Generals and is currently a senior counsel who heads both companies. Between both companies, more than six hundred thousand records were leaked as part of the 11.9 million financial records reviewed by the ICIJ over a one-year period. Interestingly, the ICIJ, in its articles does not state that Godfrey’s two companies provided illegal services, but to some extent, Godfrey says that the reports have cast aspersions and untruths. Today in an exclusive interview, Godfrey sat down with Senior Reporter Hipolito Novelo to share crucial details that the ICIJ seemingly left out. Here is that story.
As Senior Counsel Glenn D Godfrey has indicated, the ICIJ has cast unfounded accusations, allegations supported by no facts or evidence. Godfrey further states that the reporting done by the ICIJ is unethical. Based on that, he is demanding that the ICIJ retract its stories and issue an apology. His demands are now being expressed through his attorney, the former Prime Minister of Belize, Senior Counsel Dean Barrow.
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “We have engaged Mr.Dean Oliver Barrow, former Prime Minister, to give us advice and in fact in two cases I think because unfortunately we can’t sue the ICIJ they’re not here we would have to sue the people who reproduced or commented on the article. We’ve identified at least two of them and they have been sent letters of demand, I prefer not to say who they are but yes we have demanding a retraction, apology, and damages.”
Reporter: How many days have you given them to respond ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP:” I can’t, I don’t remember but I would guess about seven days or something of the sort.”
Reporter: Okay and that was sent last week ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “That was sent last week yes.”
Reporter: Are you optimistic that they would even respond to your –
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “We’ll find out. We’ll find out.”
Reporter: Are you looking for damages?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “That is less important than just a clarification that I have done nothing wrong, that I’ve complied with all that was required of me and that the suggestions – because what happened to be quite honest they went ahead and not only published but they started commenting on it and making accusations that were really really outrageous and so we wrote to them and said guess what you have to apologize, you have to compensate us. I’m more interested in just clearing my name. That they will admit that what they’re saying they have no proof of. I’m sure that just the loss of reputation damage to our reputation is substantial. I don’t know exactly how that will translate out into lost business but I imagine it could be quite substantive and we have no remedy because of the way this thing is done.”
The Pandora Papers is almost twelve million financial records that were reviewed and investigated by hundreds of journalists across the world. It is the largest leak by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ. The ICIJ wrote to Senior Counsel Glenn D Godfrey on September 1. The ICIJ presented a ten-page document filled with questions surrounding his companies’ clients and matters that date several years ago. The ICIJ in its report highlighted the fact that Godfrey did not respond to their request for comment. We asked Godfrey why.
Reporter: When you opened that letter, read that letter, what went through your mind ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Well I was shocked by some of the allegations because we have for almost fifty years maintained very clean operation. When I read it the second time I realized guess what they’re not really saying anything about me, they’re casting aspersions more on the country and on the industry. So I looked at it and it was allegations going back about twenty years and I realized that in the time frame that they’d given me there was no way I could respond to it. They gave me ten days. I found out later that in fact they had been investigating for a year. My question then was why didn’t they bring this to me when they started the story then if they really wanted a genuine effort that is what they should have done. But to come after you’ve written the story with ten pages of questions and allegations into my background including a novel I wrote I felt they were being totally – I want to be careful because I don’t want to get them any more angry than they might be or whatever – but I thought hey were acting unprofessionally let me say that. I’m used to higher standards from journalists.”
Reporter: In their press release you mentioned that they sort of have this heavy handed bullying towards your two companies. Do you still feel that way ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Bullying ? Well yes because they said if you don’t respond in ten days we’re going to publish thing which is just full of inaccuracies and misconceptions and down right slander.”
Reporter: So no response at all was given ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “No. No. I didn’t comment because I didn’t think they were acting in good faith.”
Godfrey says that the ICIJ’s approach can almost be described as blackmail. He says that the ICIJ targeted him and left out key reputable firms in the United States.
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “If the ICIJ had come when they began the story, if they had come to me and said we are thinking about writing an expose and you might be the focus of it tell us what you know.’ if I refused to cooperate at that time I could see them but for them to write up this whole story, send it to me and give me ten days to respond and if I don’t respond they’re going to publish that’s almost blackmail you know ? It’s almost I don’t know. It’s bullying at the very least.”
Reporter: You feel targeted ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Of course. As a journalist I’m sure you respect that. If I tell you I have information but it’s privileged information you will not try to bully me into giving that and that’s what they did. They targeted me. I’m the – practically the only one in Belize and I’m certainly not the only one practicing law firm in Belize. And that is a warning I suppose to the entire industry. If they cane come after me they can come after anybody. Like extortion or blackmail if you don’t cooperate we will scandalize you, we will make your life miserable.”
Reporter: Do you believe you’ve been victimized ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Of course. I believe I’ve been targeted. For what purpose I don’t know but yes I have been targeted. Why would it only focus on me ? I’ll give you an example, there’s no comment about the people who referred this business to me the business of Mr.Robert Dirst. Nobody pointed a finger at Rubenstein and Rubenstein who actually was our client and who brought the business to us. There’s no condemnation of HSBC bank in New York for doing banking business with Dirs. There’s no condemnation of the accountant who provided us with personal information. I mean if we’re going to be you know live up to our journalistic obligations – and journalists are powerful people they can wreck your life in an hour – they must have an obligation to treat everybody the same. If they’re going to do an expose on me then do one on Rubenstein and on HSBC and everybody who actually brought the business to Belize.”
Reporter: You feel you’re being unfairly treated in the report ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Of course.”
Reporter: So since the report was published have you been living in misery ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP: “No you know what because I know I’m innocent. I haven’t don anything and at the end of the day I’ll be vindicated.”
Tune into Wednesday’s newscast when we’ll take a look at the evolution of the offshore banking industry in Belize.