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Cayman cleans its laundry

The big screen portrayal of Grand Cayman as a den for criminals, has among other things prompted an international conference to plug the British dependent's impeccable credentials.

"The conference was about education not public relations," says Richard Coles, attorney general of the Cayman Islands. However the manner in which Cayman was portrayed in John Grisham's book-turned-film, The Firm ­ as a refuge for dodgy mafia money ­ cannot have been far from the organizers' minds.

A conference on "Commercial Crime Prevention" in the Caymans is in keeping with the islands' clean image campaign, in operation since the Bank of Credit & Commerce International scandal exposed the corrupt money flowing into Cayman in 1991. And despite Coles' claim that "we no longer have a problem of illegal proceeds coming into Grand Cayman", the clean image may still be ahead of reality.

"The islands have an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue that attracts questionable types," says international financial crime fighter, Michael Hershmann.

Hershmann has no difficulty citing disreputable transactions. For example, in 1993 it was revealed that a corrupt official had lost Codelco Copper Company in Chile $190 million, over a period of three years.

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