He was essential in the creation of the Offshore Industry in Belize many years ago, but tonight Belizean Attorney Senior Counsel Glenn D Godfrey remains a focus in the recently leaked Pandora Papers. Godfrey’s two companies: Glenn D Godfrey and CIL Trust International are named in the Pandora Papers and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ, says these two companies were essential in creating offshore accounts and trusts for alleged criminals and shady characters in the US. Godfrey and his companies committed no crime or acted illegally which is noted by the ICIJ. Some of the documents reviewed by the ICIJ dates back to many years ago before there was a massive reconstructing of the offshore industry. We asked Godfrey about it.
Reporter: Since the creation of the offshore industry many years ago would it be fair to say that that came with the creation of Belize as a tax haven ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glen D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Belize is not a tax haven that’s a really misconception. They like to call us a tax haven but if you look at the law now you can use any transaction worldwide and structure it in a way where you pay the least tax and there’s nothing wrong with that. For instance just a recent example Tony Blair bought a house in London or through his wife or whatever and he or his advisors decided that rather than transfer the property they would transfer just the shares in the company that held the property that way they paid less taxes, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Reporter: You’re avoiding tax, tax that would go to the government, that government would use for the people. It’s tax avoidance. It’s not illegal.
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glen D Godfrey and Company LLP: “No it’s not illegal and it’s not unethical.”
Reporter: They say it’s unethical.
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glen D Godfrey and Company LLP: “No, why is that unethical ?”
Reporter: You’re avoiding tax.
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glen D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Now do you have an obligation to establish your affairs so that you pay the most taxes that are payable ? For instance lets say you had two bridges over the Rio Hondo. One you could get over very fast but you have to pay a toll the other you don’t pay a toll but it takes a longer time and you decide to go on the one that doesn’t pay a toll is something wrong with that?”
Reporter: But the government collects tax as revenue to do its job.
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glen D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Yes and they do but does that put an obligation on me to set up my affairs so that I pay the most taxes that I can pay or can I look at at an alternative like rather than buying the property you buy the shares. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Reporter: You cut the government short though.
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glen D Godfrey and Company LLP: “No man but if the government doesn’t like that have the government change the law.”\
The Belizean Government responded to the Pandora Papers, rejecting claims made by the ICIJ. The government says that Belize’s international financial services industry is a legitimate and viable industry. GOB pointed out that in the distant past, when it was felt that Belize’s regulations were not sufficiently transparent or robust, Belize, like several other IFS jurisdictions, came under scrutiny and pressure from global powers to become more tax transparent. This was done and Belize was later removed from the EU’s so-called Blacklist in 2019. Godfrey says this is something that the ICIJ should have noted.
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glen D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Creating the off shore industry, because it was around that time it was created, not by me single handedly of course but by a number of people coming together and looking for alternate ways to replace income because we were losing guaranteed markets for sugar and bananas and that sort of thing we had to find something else because people need to have an income, people need to live in Belize. This is an alternative to agriculture, it’s services financial services, corporate services that the rest of the world including some of the places like Cayman, BVI, the Isle of Man, places in the UK, places in the US were doing it and I thought we had a young educated population and we could compete with them toe to toe.”
Reporter: What was the goal of passing those acts into law back then ?
SC Glenn Godfrey, Glen D Godfrey and Company LLP: “Well what we did we created the ship registry which has been a real success. We also created the International Business Companies Registry which has been a success as well and then the Trust Act. So working together we had these established core of business that people would come and use for legitimate purposes. Now like anything it can be abused and I’ll be the first one to say there was abuse but since then of course the industry has been tightened by succeeding governments and we have some of the toughest legislation and regulation, strictest, to guarantee that the industry is clean.”