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Adventures in Paradise… A trip to Bermuda draws an odd call from the government

December 12, 2017 - Author: bdadmin

by Will Fitzgibbon | source

Will found taxi drivers were proud promoters of Bermuda’s offshore industry.

Will found taxi drivers were proud promoters of Bermuda’s offshore industry.

Having said cheerio a few days earlier to Bermuda and its sparkling pink beaches, immaculate streets, potent rum Swizzle cocktails, colorful shorts and dark kneesocks, I was back at my grey desk in Washington grinding through some incorporation records and bank statements when the phone rang.

Bermuda’s Department of Immigration calling.

“Someone” had handed over my business card, an agent said by way of explanation for the call.

What was the purpose of my recent trip to Bermuda? an agent asked, more or less out of nowhere. What had I done in there?

A bit of a swim, I replied. A little tourism. Some…research. In a flash, the call was over.

“Well, that felt like a warning,” I decided after hanging up.

The unexpected phone call was one of the odder moments in reporting on the Paradise Papers, an investigation into the offshore financial secrets of politicians, moguls, and some of the world’s most profitable companies.

A large chunk of the 13.4 million files that make up the Paradise Papers came from Appleby, a global offshore firm founded in Bermuda.

Understanding Appleby, one of the world’s most prestigious offshore legal advisors, would be key, I thought, to understanding the offshore sector, which has drawn increasing attention from governments, asset recovery lawyers, activists, and average Joes and Janes.

I had spent the previous 10 months at my desk in ICIJ’s Farragut Square offices reading spreadsheets, bank statements, emails and other documents.

In doing so, I had learned a lot about Appleby and where it fit into this global system of secrecy and tax avoidance: how much money it made (more than $100 million a year), how it fought off lawsuits (“hope that the plaintiffs could run out of gas,” lawyers discussed in one case), and how it interacted with government officials (a former BVI minister, while accusing the firm of hiring foreigners over BVI citizens, once told an Appleby lawyer to “Go home tonight and be a human!”).

But obviously there was a lot I didn’t know, and I thought a trip to Appleby’s office and one of the islands it calls home could help. Old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, we call it (or, in this case, perhaps “sandal-rubber reporting”). Anything could be valuable, from speaking to locals to seeing where the rich and the other half, including the (few) homeless, live.

Once on the ground in Bermuda, it didn’t take long to realize how small the island’s financial beating heart was.
Will Fitzgibbon

Visiting a place can be a reminder for journalists that what we are writing about is real, that the people are just not names and addresses on an invoice. It puts abstract matters into sharper focus.

For months, for example, I had been reading up on the Bermuda office of Glencore Plc, the Anglo-Swiss commodities trading giant. A major Appleby client, Glencore for years had used a small office space within the law firm’s premises. The “Glencore Room,” Appleby employees called it.

I knew from the Paradise Papers that Glencore’s Bermuda companies were behind some mind-bogglingly large transactions. Multi-billion dollar loans passed through the Bermuda room — at least on paper.
The profile of Major Appleby found in the local library.
Reginald Woodifield founded Appleby

In reality, I had learned from Appleby’s files that no full-time Glencore employee worked there and the room rarely housed more than a checkbook, a fax machine and a computer server that occasionally broke down. This was a purported nerve center one of the world’s largest and most profitable companies. I ached to see what the room actually looked like.

The trip was coordinated with reporting teams from Japan, Australia, Denmark and the U.S. and took weeks of planning over email, the secure messaging service Signal, and ICIJ’s collaboration space, known as Global I-Hub. All of us planned to converge on the island at the same time for extra digging and to meet Appleby if we could.

After a six-hour flight from Washington through New York, I arrived at the airport to meet the team from Vice News Tonight on HBO. Vice had been following ICIJ and the “making of” the Paradise Papers for months.

Once on the ground in Bermuda, it didn’t take long to realize how small the island’s financial beating heart was.

Appleby’s office, for example, is a few doors down from the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the regulator that had fined the firm’s subsidiary in a 2015 confidential settlement for failing compliance tests.

No organization thrills at the idea of an unplanned visit by 20 journalists. Especially not a law firm that sells discretion and confidentiality.

During the day, reporters scoured the island for interviews with locals, experts, politicians past and present in an effort to get a feel for the place. Australian reporters spoke with Jamaican restaurant cooks about Bermuda’s high cost of living. Japanese reporters zigzagged across main thoroughfares, stopping pedestrians to canvass Bermudians on their views, if any, on the offshore financial industry in their midst.

In search of more information on Major Reginald Appleby, the law firm’s founder, I made my way to Bermuda’s National Archives and dug through 60-year old newspaper clippings and parliamentary debates.

Eventually, a helpful librarian at Bermuda’s National Library tracked down a colorful profile and photo portrait of the major. Another reminder that in journalism, as in many things, librarians can be your best friend.

Locals were uniformly among some of the friendliest I’ve ever met. Taxi drivers were eloquent and proud promoters of the island’s offshore industry. That said, the fares cost a small fortune.

One evening, all the journalists who weren’t filming Bermudian sunsets for their Paradise Papers documentaries gathered in my hotel room to plan the next day.

The main topic: how to approach Appleby in the most professional manner possible and with the greatest chance of being granted an interview.

No organization thrills at the idea of an unplanned visit by 20 journalists. Especially not a law firm that sells discretion and confidentiality. But our job as journalists is to seek answers and to offer as many chances as possible for a response.

The Appleby receptionist, a true Bermudian, was polite and helpful. “Take a seat,” she said. I think the day we arrived was her birthday. Balloons bobbed by her desk.

We saw the visit as an opportunity for Appleby and ICIJ to have a conversation. It had been nearly two weeks since ICIJ sent our first list of questions to the company. We knew that our questions had been received but had received no word on whether the company would grant an on-camera interview. As we waited, we wondered what was happening in the offices above our heads.

After 30 minutes or so on the couch, Appleby dispatched an employee from the facilities department. Blood-orange red Bermuda shorts and all.

He wouldn’t give his name, answer questions or accept a letter with some questions for Appleby’s attention.

He did, however, thank me for my business card.

No Comments - Categories: Bermuda Business, Bermuda Crime, Bermuda Employment, Bermuda EU, Bermuda Government, Bermuda News, Bermuda Politics, Bermuda Travel

8 Reasons to head to Bermuda this year

January 19, 2016 - Author: bdadmin

There’s lots more to Bermuda than a Triangle and shorts: Eight fantastic (and terrifying) reasons to head for the Atlantic island

St David's Lighthouse from Cooper's Island Long Bay

St David’s Lighthouse from Cooper’s Island Long Bay

  • Though many think it’s in the Caribbean, it’s actually near North Carolina
  • Bermuda is perhaps best known for its Triangle and shorts with suit jacket
  • However, there are plenty of adventures on offer on the small island nation

By George Glover For The Mail

Name an island in the Caribbean that begins with a ‘B’: Barbados or Barbuda… or what about Bermuda?

Bermuda begins with a ‘B’ and it really sounds as if it should be in the Caribbean (British heritage, palm trees, white beaches, warm blue waters) but it’s actually in the Atlantic some 600 miles to the east of North Carolina and offering a holiday experience in many ways quite different to the Caribbean.

It may be better known for its Triangle and its shorts (shorts with long socks and a suit jacket and tie – really?). However, Bermuda deserves to be more famous as a sweetly seductive travel destination.

One of the distinctive things about Bermuda is that while other Commonwealth nations were quick to separate themselves from British rule, Bermuda has been happy to stay more closely linked to the UK.

Nola shipwreck in Bermuda is on TV in UK.

The boiler of the 1863 Montana. *Photo supplied

Prior to its settlement by the British in 1609, Bermuda was unoccupied. The island has the honour of being the oldest and most populous remaining British Overseas Territory.

Its first capital, St George’s, was established in 1612 and is the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the Americas.

Here are eight great reasons to enjoy Bermuda…

1. Snorkelling

With waters clear down to a depth of 150ft, all you need is a mask, fins and snorkel for an amazing exploration of the undersea world. And what a colourful world it is. Discover coral-crusted shipwrecks from more than five centuries of nautical history and swim around the Atlantic’s largest and most beautiful coral reefs.

2. Whale watching

In March and April, Bermuda’s wild beauty comes to life when whales make their annual visit. Witness the migration parade of the humpback and other species. With the clear blue waters of the Sargasso Sea to the east, and the warm currents of the Gulf Stream just to the west, Bermuda is perfectly situated along the migration routes of whales as they travel to their northern feeding grounds each spring.

3. The Old Railway Trail

This provides the perfect route for exploring Bermuda. Converted into walking and cycling pathways the length of the island, the trail connects colourful villages, hidden coves, spectacular bluffs and historical sites as it crosses bridges and meanders through lush greenery. Walk the trail or cycle – bike hire (suitable for those over 12) is from £19pp per day.

Incidentally, bicycles, taxis, buses, scooters and ferries are the most common modes of transportation on the island. There are no rental cars available for visitors due to strict environmental laws.

4. Exciting excursions

Newport Bermuda 2014 Race.

2014 Newport/Bermuda race information for captains, crew and fans.

A range of new Bermuda experiences allow visitors to taste genuine island life with local people. For example, enjoy a Family Dining Experience where you spend an evening with a local family in their home, learning to prepare and cook traditional Bermudian dishes such as fish chowder, BBQ chicken or grilled red snapper. From £90.

5. Enjoy Bermuda and New York

Virgin Holidays is offering a flexible, two-centre holiday option for UK travellers, pairing Bermuda with a city break in New York, which is a two-hour flight from the island. The package is available all year and can include any combination of nights.

Fly from Heathrow this month and stay for two nights at the Martha Washington Hotel in New York, followed by five nights at the Grotto Bay Hotel, Bermuda, from £1,175pp. Based on two people on a room only basis.

6. Learn To Sail Programme

Bermuda is the home of the 35th America’s Cup next year, and the Bermuda Tourism Authority will be launching a new Learn To Sail Programme in association with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club during the build-up to the big event.

7. Cliff diving

Thrill-seekers cannot resist taking a jump off Bermuda’s limestone cliffs into the sparkling waters below – and rockclimbers love it as well. To get to many of the best cliff-diving spots, you have to scale the cliff first – be very careful up there!

John Smith's Bay Beach - South Shore Bermuda

John Smith’s Bay Beach – South Shore Bermuda

8. Eco adventures

Learn about Bermuda’s volcanic origins, shipwrecks and the mysteries of the ‘Triangle’ at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, the science and marine history museum. Entrance is £9 for adults, £5 for children. Visit buei.org. Find out more about the island’s environmental conservation at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, which has recently been renovated and is set in picturesque gardens. Entrance is £10 for adults, £3 for children. Go to bamz.org.

Source:  dailymail.co.uk

No Comments - Categories: Bermuda News, Bermuda Photos, Bermuda Tourism, Bermuda Travel