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The UK Government’s acceptance of public ownership registers for UK overseas territories

May 3rd, 2018

PRESS RELEASE

The Financial Transparency Coalition welcomes the news that the UK will finally be able to open up the financial centres in the British Overseas Territories. This has come about after the UK Government accepted a cross-party amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill for Britain’s Overseas Territories to bring in public registers of beneficial owners that will reveal the individuals behind companies incorporated in these jurisdictions.

Statement by the Financial Transparency Coalition on the UK Government’s acceptance of public ownership registers for UK overseas territories

As a global network of civil society organizations, from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America, the Financial Transparency Coalition welcomes the news that the UK will finally be able to open up the financial centres in the British Overseas Territories. This has come about after the UK Government accepted a cross-party amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill for Britain’s Overseas Territories to bring in public registers of beneficial owners that will reveal the individuals behind companies incorporated in these jurisdictions.

The Financial Transparency Coalition (FTC) works to curtail illicit financial flows through the promotion of a transparent, accountable, and sustainable financial system that works for everyone. Hidden company ownership is a big contributor to the estimated $1 trillion that leaves developing countries illicitly every year. It allows tax evaders, criminals, and corrupt officials to move money undetected, often into banks in the U.S. and Europe. For this reason, ensuring that the names of the real people behind companies and trusts are on public record has been a core objective for the FTC, and a focus of our work, since our inception nearly ten years ago.

The Tax Justice Network, a member of the FTC, has identified the UK, when taken together with its network of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, as the world’s most important secrecy Jurisdiction in its 2018 Financial Secrecy Index. So this is a very significant moment in the fight for financial transparency. The FTC now hopes and expects that this move by the UK will add pressure for further moves, to open up the secretive world of Trusts and to widen the transparency to other parts of the world, including the UK’s Crown Dependencies and the US.

Simon Kirkland from FTC Member Christian Aid said: “This is the news we have been waiting for. This is a major step forward in the fight against the tax avoidance, evasion and corruption that costs developing countries so dearly.”

Neeti Biyani from FTC member the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, India said:  “Financial secrecy afforded to the rich and multinational corporations by way of anonymous and shell companies hurts developing countries disproportionately by eroded tax bases, in turn impeding the realization of human rights and perpetuating deeper inequalities. The amendment is a welcome move but must extend to the UK’s Crown Dependencies as well. The battle does not end here.”

Naomi Hirst from FTC member Global Witness said: “The UK’s tax havens have featured in countless corruption and money laundering cases – ending their corporate secrecy will throw a huge spanner in the works of corrupt dictators, tax evaders and organised criminals.”

Markus Meinzer from FTC member Tax Justice Network said: “The risks for dirty business ending up in bright daylight is increasing. Let’s now move on to tackle the next strongholds of financial secrecy – there are enough left for a lifetime.”

Duncan Hames, from FTC member Transparency International UK said:  “This afternoon, corrupt individuals everywhere will be deeply concerned that they are about to lose the secrecy afforded by the British Overseas Territories that has until now given them an easy route to launder their ill-gotten gains.”

Sargon Nissan, Director of the FTC, said:“ This is a critical step toward the fair international financial system that the FTC was founded to bring about. Though further financial transparency reforms are vital to stop illicit financial flows having such a damaging impact, in particular on developing countries, this is a powerful blow against abuse of financial secrecy.”

 

Notes to Editors: Click here for more information on anonymous companies and the need for public beneficial ownership registries

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Contact:

Sargon Nissan, Director, snissan@financialtransparency.org, (UK) +44  7766 580276

Written by Financial Transparency Coalition

Image used under Creative Commons license / Flickr User DncnH

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