DECADES of financial secrecy may soon be over after Gibraltar began negotiations with Spain to increase its fiscal transparency.
Tax evaders could be forced to look elsewhere after the countries agreed in principle to an unprecedented exchange of monetary information.
It came after the world’s most powerful countries – the G-20 – threatened offshore tax havens with sanctions if they refused to share financial information.
“The proposals have been agreed in principle and, as far as Gibraltar is concerned, we could sign a deal tomorrow,” said Gibraltar Chief Minister Peter Caruana.
“We don’t want to be seen as a threat to Spain’s treasury.”
Gibraltar’s status as a tax haven has earned it a reputation for as a popular haunt for millionaires wanting to hide illicit funds.
“The proposals have been agreed in principle and, as far as Gibraltar is concerned, we could sign a deal tomorrow.”
But in order to adhere to the G-20’s requirements Gibraltar must pass on six criteria, which include economic cooperation, political structure and even environment.
“We are trying to fulfil all the conditions and more because, being Spain’s direct neighbour, we understand that they would feel the most threatened,” added Caruana.
Spain has already agreed to share information with eight countries, including Luxembourg and Andorra.
So far 18 countries with evasive reputations are complying with the G-20’s demands and Gibraltar is keen to follow suit.
“There is no alternative, the world is changing and Gibraltar must adapt,” explained former minister and lawyer Peter Montegriffo.
“Caribbean islands may take a while longer to comply with the legislation but this is not possible in Europe.
“It is impossible to operate in this day and age without transparency.”
However, before any deal is struck, Spain is demanding the involvement of the British government.
Officials don’t view Gibraltar as influential enough to negotiate a deal without the aid of the UK.
“We will endeavour to improve the cooperation on fiscal matters,” said a Spanish Foreign Office spokesperson.
Yet Gibraltar is refusing to call on the involvement of Britain, citing that none of the 18 international agreements already made have required London’s stamp.