Cayman Islands profile

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One of the world's largest financial centres and a well-known tax haven, this British overseas territory in the Caribbean has more registered businesses than it has people.

Tourism, banking and property are big money earners, making the islands financially self-sufficient. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1503, Grand Cayman and its sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, boast beaches, coral reefs and abundant marine life. However, Hurricane Ivan pounded the main island in 2004.

Once a dependency of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands came under direct British rule after Jamaica declared independence in 1962. Granted greater autonomy in 1972, the islands gained a high degree of self-government under the 2009 constitution but its first premier, McKeeva Bush, was ousted in a corruption scandal in 2012.

Sometimes criticised as a haven for tax evaders, the Cayman Islands feature in the 2017 leak dubbed the Paradise Papers, which reveal the financial dealings of politicians, celebrities, corporate giants and business leaders.

FACTS

image sourceGetty Images
image captionThe authorities have had to enforce stricter banking regulations on the territory known as a tax haven

LEADERS

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor

Premier: Wayne Panton

Mr Panton took over in April 2021 after the outgoing coalition government failed to keep its majority at elections.

A lawyer by professions, Wayne Panton sits in parliament as an independent, as do most MPs.

MEDIA

Four TV stations are on the air in the Caymans, two of them run by religious organisations. Cable and satellite offer a variety of US and international stations.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in the history of the Cayman Islands:

1503 - Navigator Christopher Columbus sights the islands.

1670 - Spain cedes the islands, along with Jamaica, to the English under the terms of the Treaty of Madrid.

1962 - Jamaica declares independence. Caymans stay under British rule

1972 - New constitution provides for a greater autonomy.

1994 - Constitution modified.

2002 - British Overseas Territories Act grants British citizenship to all Caymanians.

2004 - Hurricane Ivan, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record, causes widespread destruction on Grand Cayman.

image sourceGetty Images
image captionGrand Cayman is home the Blue Iguana, an endangered reptile which was once common on the island

2009 May - US President Barack Obama singles out Cayman Islands in an attack on tax havens.

2009 August - Territory joins OECD's global "white list" of countries using internationally recognised tax standards.

2010 - British police brought in to help tackle gang-related crime

2013 - Cayman Islands sign agreements on sharing tax information with Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain as part of an international drive against tax evasion.

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