OECS heads address planned expulsions from Dominican Republic and EU tax haven blacklist

St George’s, Grenada (GIS) — Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) heads on Monday expressed their concern over the expulsion of Dominicans of Haitian descent from the Dominican Republic, either through state-initiated actions or actions by private parties.
The heads expressed consternation that among the thousands expelled or forced through private pressure to leave their homes in the DR were women and children.

“We have already spoken out forcefully from day one when we had the meeting in Cuba. All the Caribbean countries spoke out strongly against the initiative by the Dominican Republic and the president was there,” said new OECS chairman, Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.

“In fact we were being advised then to cool it because things are going to work out and they are going to find an amicable solution. Well what we are finding out is that those who were advising us to cool it are now realizing that this may not have been the wisest decision,” he said.

OECS heads remain deeply concerned that the mass migration would lead to a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions in the Western Hemisphere’s most vulnerable country – a country which historically paid a heavy price for the freedoms that today are enjoyed by many throughout the region.

The OECS position is based on a number of fundamental principles that include, among other things, a recommitment by the Dominican Republic that there would be no such deportation.

“Nothing has stopped the Dominican Republic in moving to do what we consider to be a highly unusual action in our community,” Mitchell said.

“At CARICOM level that would come up again and strong positions will be taken on a unified platform on this,” he noted.

The heads underscored a willingness to assist the Dominican Republic, within the framework of the CARIFORUM grouping, to identify a humanitarian approach to addressing this extremely serious matter.

The OECS heads agreed to engage this issue at the upcoming Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government meeting in Barbados in a few days (July 2-4).

The agreement among the heads took place in a caucus session during the 61st OECS Authority meeting, chaired by Grenada’s prime minister, and held in Grenada on Monday.

The OECS Authority also expressed concern with the unjustified blacklisting of OECS members by ten European Union countries, with which these countries in the OECS do not have a substantial economic or financial relationship.

OECS members on the blacklist had individually written to the EU, registering their objection to the blacklisting, which is based on, inter alia, inaccurate data and erroneous information.

The heads are concerned that this unwarranted and unjustified attack on the well-regulated financial sector of OECS members, was already leading to negative implications for the corresponding banking relationships and the generally negative impact of Investor confidence; as well as a safe, compliant area for financial services.

“We will aggressively pursue getting this thing removed. We are not sitting there. It is not a positive assessment. So therefore it is something that we must move to get rid of. So that’s why collectively we are going to do whatever we have to do,” Mitchell declared.

“We are taking our case to the CARICOM region. Barbados was also named and historically Barbados was named as one of the more compliant countries in the Caribbean. So having Barbados on the list makes it even more ridiculous,” he added.

The heads reiterated that the OECD’s Global Forum and the FATF, as authorities on tax compliance, have repeatedly taken an opposite view of the financial services in the OECS; that is, recognizing their bona fide standing as sound, credible and internationally compliant.

The heads noted that member states had executed the required tax information exchange agreements as required by the Global Forum, and had been found to be substantially compliant with the required standards.

“The interesting thing is that the European Union Council members actually sitting on the councils of the FATF; and the FATF would have found us to be fully compliant, certainly the global forum. They indicated that our countries are compliant and we operate at a transparent manner,” said Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda.

“So clearly that categorization is flawed, it has serious implications for our respective countries and it’s an issue that we intend to continue to fight,” he noted.

As a result, the decision was taken in St George’s on Monday by the heads to commit to issuing a joint letter/communiqué to the European Union Commission on Economic Affairs and Taxation, imploring them to take action to repair the damage which this ill-conceived and misleading blacklisting has caused on the financial services sector of the OECS.

“This is really an illegal list. Persons who issued the list have no authority to make such a determination,” declared director general of the OECS Dr Didacus Jules.

“It is only the relevant international agencies that can do that and all of the agencies have given most of the jurisdictions in the Caribbean a clean bill of health,” he pointed out.

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