Belize a money laundering hotspot?

By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter

Multiple International media outlets have recently named Belize as a money-laundering hotspot, but the International Business Companies registrar, Gian Gandhi, speaking to The Reporter on Thursday, said there’s no cause for concern.

On Monday, an Associated Press article entitled “Foreign banks agree to reveal Americans’ hidden assets to IRS”, published by a Pittsburgh Pennsylvania paper, described Belize as one of several tax-evasion havens.

“As much as $25 trillion … was stashed in 70 or more countries whose banking laws allowed individuals and corporations to mask their wealth from the Internal Revenue Service and avoid paying taxes,” the article stated.

“To demonstrate how easy it is for people to stash money out of the IRS’ reach,” the article by Trib Total Media alleged that two of their reporters spent less than $1,000 to set up a shell company and bank account in Belize. The money, they say, was then “accessible through ATMs”.

In addition to AP, a Reuters article, entitled “Billion-dollar medical project helped fund “Putin’s palace” on the Black Sea”, and published in late May, also put Belize in less-than-favorable company.
That article claimed that a sprawling estate in Russia known as “Putin’s Palace”—reportedly belonging to Russian President Vladimir Putin—was built with money intended for a health care program.

According to Reuters, their evidence shows that an English company, Greathill, received payment from another Russian company headed by Putin’s associates.

Greathill then sent $56 million to the Swiss bank accounts of a Belize company. Finally, the Belize company sent funds to a firm registered in Washington, DC.

Gandhi, who is also director general for the International Financial Services of Belize, said that because in each article no details including names of the companies alleged to have been formed as ‘shell’ companies were given, it is difficult to investigate the claim.

He added that should such information become available to them the matter would be investigated.
Gandhi, however, explained that the IBC Registry does not form companies; that is done by registered agents who may be in other countries.

The request to form the company would then come from an IFSC licensed agent.

The due diligence process to profile applicants should be done by the agent before agreeing to form a company for the client. That should only be done if all regulations and standards are met.

“It is possible, however, that a media reporter trying to prove that a shell company can easily be formed, may manage to deceive the registered agent by posing as a genuine investor and giving false information about the purpose of the company. Such instances are, however, rare,” Gandhi said.

He said that currently there are over 70,000 active IBCs and while the formation of a shell company cannot be totally ruled out, they believe that, having regard to the due diligence carried out by the registered agents, the chances of forming shell companies are minimal.

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