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Belize as an Offshore Privacy Tax Haven
Let’s take a look at some of the laws in place in this disappointing but often used jurisdiction. But before we go deeper into this, we should point out that the capital, Belize City, has one paved street that is 3 or 4 blocks long. Here you are in the third world with numerous interruptions of internet, electricity and telephone. Belize is often hit by hurricanes. The stability of the regime in Belize is questionable as they have had a regime change in recent years and the new regime did not respect the economic citizenships and passports of the previous regime. Food for thought on how things work in Belize. Additionally, in Belize you are usually dealing with a bank that only has an offshore license and is unable to do business with residents of the country – isn’t that too plausible? More details follow:
The Belize Anti-Money Laundering Act of 1996 defines money laundering (broadly in our view) as:
Participating, directly or indirectly, in a transaction involving property that is the proceeds of crime, knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that it is the proceeds of crime; or receiving, possessing, managing, investing, concealing, concealing, disposing of or bringing into Belize any property that is the proceeds of crime, knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe that the same is the proceeds of crime. Under Belizean law, money laundering is also considered a criminal offense within the meaning of any law relating to the extradition or extradition of fugitive criminals.
The law stipulates that anyone who engages or attempts, assists, supports, advises or procures the commission of the criminal offense of money laundering or who conspires to commit the criminal offense of money laundering is guilty of a criminal offense. The above also includes persons who, at the time of the commission of the crime, were acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of a body of persons (whether corporate or unincorporated) or purported to be acting in that capacity. However, if such persons provide evidence that the offense was committed without their knowledge, consent or connivance, the charge may be withdrawn.
The penalty imposed on those convicted of money laundering can be in the form of a fine, ranging from $12,500 to $50,000, or imprisonment for 3-6 years, or a combination of fine and imprisonment.
The Act also creates an offense of disclosing facts or other information to another, where there is a likelihood of harm to the investigation (thinking that the subject of the investigation) by a person who knows or suspects that a money laundering investigation has been, is being punished, or is about to be carried out, punishable by a fine of not more than 25,000 US dollars, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, or both. So don’t expect any Belize bank to tell you that someone is asking questions about your account.
Forging, concealing, destroying or disposing of any document or material which may be relevant to a money laundering investigation or to any order made pursuant to the provisions of this Act is punishable by a fine of not more than US$50,000 or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or both of you.
An application may be made to the Supreme Court of Belize to freeze property or assets in the possession or control of a person who is or will be charged with the crime of money laundering, wherever such property is located, if the property is alleged to have been the proceeds of crime, do you think that a bank in belize might like this to happen so they can sit on your money for years to come collecting interest and not paying interest?
After a person has been convicted of the criminal offense of money laundering, the court may order that the property, income or funds arising from or related to or in connection with that criminal offense be confiscated and disposed of in a manner determined by the Minister. So if they say you laundered money, you lose money. Sounds great doesn’t it.
However, all prosecutions, actions, suits or other proceedings brought for any offence, or for the recovery of any fine, penalty or forfeiture, must be brought within 5 years from the date on which the offense was committed or from the date on which the cause of action arose. the lawsuit.
Reporting Requirements (It’s getting worse!)
In addition to reporting “suspicious transactions” to the Central Bank of Belize, as required by law, Belizean financial institutions adhere to the “know your customer” principle and also conduct due diligence exercises. This means that the bank in Belize has to report you if they see something they in their great wisdom consider suspicious and remember if the money is seized by the government it will probably sit in the bank for a few years collecting interest for the bank. Think about the conflict of interest and remember that money laundering is far from clearly defined in the law, it is too broad in scope and can include anything you want.
The law lists the following as examples of “suspicious transactions”: “complex, unusual or large business transactions, unusual patterns of transactions whether completed or not, all unusual transactions and significant but recurring transactions that have no obvious economic or legal purpose.” ‘ Sounds like it covers everything they want. What is even meant by a complex transaction or a large transaction?
If financial institutions or their employees, personnel, directors, owners or other authorized representatives willfully fail to report such transactions or willfully make a false or falsified report of such matters, they may be charged with a crime. Fines of up to US$25,000 may be imposed and the license of such financial institutions may also be suspended or revoked, if found liable.
The Central Bank of Belize evaluates all reports of “suspicious transactions” and after concluding that there are reasonable grounds that a crime of money laundering has been committed, has been or is about to be committed, it will refer those transactions to law enforcement authorities for investigation. and possible criminal prosecution. Note that it says that if the Central Bank thinks an offense is about to be committed, they can preemptively strike and grab your money just in case they think you’ve intended to break the law one day, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
If there are reasonable grounds for believing that there has been a breach or contravention of this Act, the Central Bank shall also have the power to inspect any records of business transactions, ask any questions relevant to such records, and make any notes or take any which copy all or part of such records during regular business hours of the financial institution, and may forward the information to law enforcement. This means that there are no private business records in Belize.
Belize is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, an organization of Caribbean states that have joined forces “to develop and share the latest intelligence on money laundering and other financial crime techniques used in the Caribbean region and elsewhere.” This organization works closely with the world’s leading anti-money laundering authority, The Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, whose principles Belize also adheres to.
The legislation provides for cooperation between a court or other competent authority of Belize and a court or other competent authority of another country in matters relating to money laundering offenses in accordance with the Belize Money Laundering (Prevention) Act of 1996 and within the limits of the respective legal systems.
Belize is a signatory to the 1988 UN Convention on Drugs and is a member of the Inter-American Commission on Drug Abuse Control (OAS/CICAD) for the control of money laundering of the Organization of American States. The United States and Belize signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in September 2000. Belize also has a tax treaty with the US
Belize has Bearer Share Corporations, but they are not anonymous like Panama and work differently. Here again we see Belizean laws full of loopholes for free invasion of privacy. Company registration in Belize is done through a registered agent, not a lawyer, so forget about attorney client privilege. A registered agent does due diligence to know the owner(s) of the corporation. The Belize Money Laundering Act and the Belize Code of Conduct require disclosure of this identification. Now come the holes. The only document submitted for public filing with the Belize Registrar of Corporations is the Memorandum and Articles of Association. The Belize Financial Intelligence Unit and the Belize International Financial Services Commission are two organizations in Belize that have free access to corporate records, including ownership to the agent provided, and can freely obtain this information, no court order is required and you will not know they have ever obtained your so-called classified information and gave it to other countries who do who knows what with it. You are one small step away from being in the public database and the door to wide fishing expeditions is wide open.
In Panama, there simply is no registry with any ownership records for a bearer joint stock company, so no one can access something that doesn’t exist. True, one could contact the attorney who set up the corporation in Panama, but that would require serious legal action for breach of attorney client privilege, for many reasons, and of course the attorney would be required to oppose such a court order. Panama has 400,000 corporations registered there, most of which will quickly go out of business if the courts infringe on privacy. Each corporation pays $300 a year in taxes, which totals $120,000,000 for a country of 2.9 million people. The Panama Canal brings in about $335,000,000 to Panama alone and requires 9,000 employees. How many people does it take to run a corporate documents department, maybe 200. Panama is a country that is unlikely to violate corporate privacy. A lawyer in Panama may only have knowledge of the person who founded the company, but not of others to whom he may have transferred the corporation since incorporation. Such transfers need not be reported and the new owner(s) need not be of record anywhere, they just need to physically hold shares in the corporation. The new owner(s) may live outside of Panama, the new owners may be a corporation, foundation or trust in another country, etc. making all trails extremely difficult, time consuming, expensive and generally not feasible for most people to follow especially when you consider that no one really knows how many times ownership may have been transferred.
Does this sound like a jurisdiction you would want to use for anything? We feel that Belize is simply a ridiculous jurisdiction with no safeguards or safeguards, avoid this one.
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