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The Bar Association of Belize Says Pandora Papers has Cast Doubt on Belize

We’ve reported extensively on the Pandora Papers, the largest release from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The group has spent the past year looking into millions of records of fourteen offshore service providers that provide offshore services to the rich and famous. The Pandora Papers is a throve of almost 12 million records linked to fourteen companies that offer offshore services to international clients. Two of those companies, Glenn D Godfrey and Company LLP and CIL (sill) Trust International are owned by former government minister Glenn Godfrey. We’ve heard Godfrey speak about the investigation, which he says, unfairly maligns his companies and the services they provide. Today the Bar Association of Belize joined in the conversation saying that the Pandora Papers has cast doubt on the entire Belizean offshore industry that is, quote, “…part of a legitimate, global offshore services industry that is well-regulated and monitored internationally.” End of quote. In the 728-word press statement, the Bar says that while it supports the offshore industry as a significant contributor to the national economy, it noted, quote, “…unhesitatingly and resolutely condemns any form of tax fraud, money laundering, terrorism, corruption, or other illegal activity, whether in the offshore industry or onshore. There is a misconception that these kinds of activities only occur in the offshore industry.” End of quote. The release goes on further to make four points; the first being that there is nothing unlawful or sinister about providing international financial services in Belize to international clients, provided it is done strictly in accordance with the law, established regulations and guidelines. The Bar also noted that there is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that monitors offshore industries and where a country is too lax with regulations, pressure is applied and countries are blacklisted. Belize was one of those countries blacklisted many years ago but was later removed from that list in 2019. The Bar said it agrees with Godfrey when he said, quote, “certain practitioners of the offshore industry in Belize have been unfairly targeted for criticism without any actual evidence of illegal activity or breach of regulatory guidelines.” End of quote. Lastly, the Bar Association takes the view that one of the ICIJ objectives is to discredit the entire global offshore industry for facilitating individuals in avoiding taxes in their respective countries – which is not unlawful – and chose to focus on Belize and certain transactions from almost twenty years ago. Since the release of the papers, Godfrey has hired Senior Counsel Dean Barrow who has written the ICIJ demanding a retraction, apology and compensations for damages caused. The Bar says that it has no issue with the ICIJ exposing what it perceives as any weaknesses or irregularities in the system, but their characterization of Belize was more in the manner of an unfair smear campaign.