The Caribbean Community (Caricom) is fighting sanctions against four of its member nations which have been blacklisted by the European Union for being regional tax havens in a move Caricom has denounced as "arbitrary and punitive."RELATED:
Following the release of the infamous Paradise Papers, which revealed tax havens across the world used by high-profile public figures – from politicians to rock stars – the European Union blacklisted 17 countries for allegedly failing to meet its standards.
However, a number of the EU's own partners, equally guilty of harboring tax havens, were carefully omitted from its "pernicious" list.
"This decision by the EU has been based on new and unilaterally determined criteria that go beyond the generally accepted international tax transparency and accountability standards, which our countries have been diligently meeting over the past several years," said Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque.
"These universally accepted standards were established by the Financial Action Task Force and the OECD Global Forum and demanded by the very EU," commented Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of West Indies (UWI), noting that the Caribbean had either adhered to or exceeded the required standards.
The EU says that the four Caribbean nations may not be the only ones included on their list in light of the region's alleged shortcomings. The only reason they had delayed the decision was the crippling effects recent hurricanes had on various Caribbean communities.
The EU finally announced its decision after a 10-month investigation, concluding that St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago weren't doing enough to stifle tax-avoidance schemes.
Barbados Minister Donville Inniss responded by saying that the EU has yet to deliver any official correspondence explaining its actions, without which the situation cannot be remedied.
"Many of the countries on the list… in the Caribbean, either cried-out in astonishment or disbelief, but not one of them asked what gives the Council of the EU the right to put any country on a blacklist and to impose sanctions on them for non-compliance with European Union-created criteria on taxation," said Antigua's Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States Ronald Sanders.
"No one questioned the authority of 28 European countries alone to decide tax standards for the rest of the world."
LaRocque said the Caribbean Community is ready fight the EU over its biased criteria, which could seriously harm their economies, international trade and unnecessarily put the region at risk.
Barbados Minister of International Business Donville Innis has called for Caricom to reject the EU list in a unified act of defiance.