UCL News


UCL in the News: Corruption claims taint island tax haven

8 August 2007

A scandal over alleged corruption in Bermuda has triggered a colourful political and courtroom battle that has delighted tax haven rivals and highlighted the unusual legal relationship between Britain and its remaining overseas territories.

The top appeal court for about two dozen former and current British colonies - the judicial committee of the privy council in London - has imposed a gagging order that will prevent full reporting of the case for almost three months. …

The Bermuda authorities have gone to court to stop reporting of further contents of the investigation dossier, alleging breach of confidence. After losing the case in Bermuda, they took it to the judicial committee of the privy council, which has prohibited reporting of fresh allegations from the dossier pending a hearing on the case.

The complication is that the committee - which is made up of judges from the House of Lords, Britain's highest court, and meets in a special chamber at Downing Street, the prime minister's residence - began its two-month holiday last week. …

The hiatus brings into focus the strange and sometimes uncomfortable position of the privy council judicial committee, which some critics see as an colonial relic overseeing parts of Britain's former empire and the remaining overseas territories known colloquially as the "pink dots on the map". Professor Robert Hazell [UCL Constitution Unit] said the committee had tried to become more sensitive to concerns about its role, making a pioneering visit to the Bahamas in December to hear four cases.

"They are aware of their own very limited legitimacy in being a final court of appeal for those jurisdictions," Prof Hazell said. …

Michael Peel, 'Financial Times'