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Top financial services lawyer
ponders political comeback
He successfully stood twice and left twice as a Member of Gibraltar’s Parliament, founding in the process a political party that survives today – and as the jurisdiction faces the economic challenges and opportunities of Brexit, Ray Spencer reveals Peter Montegriffo is still occasionally tempted to do it all over again
identified niche markets; they all had established a track record and a professional infrastructure that we lacked”, he considers. However, Gibraltar had “the European dimension, which they did not. This opened the prospect of a dual approach, developing further as a private client centre like Jersey and Guernsey, and also being an on-shore EU centre like Luxembourg.
“So we ran with both propositions – and we still do to a large extent – but, because we were trying to do two things and because of our lack of human capital, we didn’t perhaps give enough effort to either and weren’t as successful, as if we had concentrated on one or the other”.
Flexibility to serve well
But Montegriffo, whose sons Andrew (29) and David (26) are commercial lawyers also at Hassans, insists: “Today, Gibraltar is, frankly, in a pretty good place in many respects.	First, we have managed to retain our relevance as a centre where private clients’ affairs can be managed and private wealth can be held and administered – we genuinely do compete with Jersey and Guernsey – and second, our connection with Europe has been extremely helpful. The flexibility inherent in this duality will serve us well in a post-Brexit scenario.”
And then the political dimension emerges. “The question for the next period is how our current model will be preserved or affected by the outcome of the UK Brexit negotiations with Brussels. There are many variables that we cannot now anticipate”, Montegriffo points out.
“We are looking initially, for a common market with the UK. This is within London’s gift and therefore we should be able to progress matters speedily. As for the broader EU market, our wish and legitimate expectation is that whatever the City of London achieves for itself, Gibraltar should also be able to piggy back on,” he maintains.
Noting that the UK government has to juggle conflicting demands from different commercial, regional and political sectors in an attempt to “square the circle and deliver on the priorities for each in a coherent way”, Montegriffo opines: “For Gibraltar, mindful of Spain’s agenda, what we need from London is a clear commitment that we are not going to be regarded as a bilateral issue with Madrid, and instead will be treated as part of the UK in negotiations with Brussels.
Continued overleaf
As Gibraltar’s first lawyer to become a Queens Counsel (QC) on the basis of a non-litigation practice (previously a mandatory requirement), 56 year old Montegriffo has juggled political and legal ambitions since he enjoyed work experience aged 15 under Sir Joshua Hassan, a former chief minister and founder of the firm that bears his name today.
“Law exercises the mind – it involves public policy considerations - and it also gives the opportunity to grow and develop people’s ambitions”, Montegriffo observes. “I much prefer building businesses and opening opportunities rather than litigation, which is why I moved away from that aspect.
“I see my role as assisting in moving clients’ and also Gibraltar PLC’s affairs forward. I don’t see myself just as a legal advisor, but as somebody who contributes to advancing this community, (together with many others, of course)”, he explains.
In 1982 he joined Hassans as lawyer number seven [there are about 75 lawyers in the firm today] on leaving London’s Lincolns Inn Court, where he qualified as a barrister after studying at Leeds University and dated his wife of 31 years, Josephine (better known as Pepita).
The product of the territory’s first and pioneering comprehensive school intake - “we regarded ourselves to some extent as a privileged generation” - Montegriffo recalls: “In 1972 the teaching profession, in particular, was keen to demonstrate the new system would work”.
A young Montegriffo had participated in a debate with visiting Spanish politicians as well as sitting at the feet of Sir Joshua, who he describes as “very much a local practitioner; his practice was very domestic – divorces, probates, tenants’ cases – nothing of international finance or the sophisticated cross-border stuff we are doing in Gibraltar today”.
But with the Spanish border partially open to pedestrians his legal career extended beyond criminal and civil litigation to also embrace financial services as a member of the commercial team, led by James Levy QC,
senior partner at the firm today, while other partners focused more on property litigation.
Behind the curve
the and
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, attended international financial services private client conferences, at which sometimes presented and which, importantly, generated new work.
“It was obvious when we first fully entered this open frontier world in the mid- 1980’s, that we were about 10-15 years behind the curve”, he says. It was clear that although Gibraltar had introduced foreign business-getting Exempt Company Taxation in 1967, “in fact - because the frontier had been closed since 1969 and we had been living in reduced circumstances - Gibraltar had not really flourished as a finance centre, compared to Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man in particular.
“They had really moved leagues ahead, and other places in the Caribbean like Cayman Islands and Bermuda had also
Peter Montegriffo - very far from being a reluctant lawyer
he and he
Gibraltar International

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