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May 2, 2018

UK MPs back measures to improve offshore company transparency

By Saloni Sardana

British overseas territories, such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, will be forced to disclose the ownership of companies based there after MPs in the UK’s parliament approved measures to improve transparency.

This paves the way to introduce public ownership registers in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, which are offshore financial centres by the end of 2020.

The radical step comes after a high profile debate recently took place in the UK House of Commons.

The result of that debate was the amendment with respect to the Overseas Territories was carried while the amendment tabled with respect to the Crown Dependencies was withdrawn.

This means the amendment related to overseas territories will be applied to the sanctions and anti-money laundering bill, but not to the UK’s crown dependencies.

Crown dependencies include Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Jersey Finance, which is the non-profit marketing body to promote Jersey as an international financial centre, hailed the move.

Geoff Cook, Jersey Finance’s CEO, said: “Jersey continues to remain absolutely aligned with the UK in terms of its commitment to combat money laundering and financial crime. We are confident that our verified central register of beneficial ownership, backed up by trust and company service provider licensing, is fully in line with international standards as set out by the FATF, MoneyVal and the OECD, and remains the best way of achieving continuing compliance with international standards.”

He added: “While this outcome is a sensible and pragmatic result for the jurisdiction, the debate has given Jersey another opportunity to clarify its approach to managing and sharing beneficial ownership information.

“Information on our central register, which is tried and tested for almost three decades, is available to the people who need that vital information and we are constantly working with law enforcement agencies and other relevant authorities to ensure they have everything they need.”

The MPs’ action to improve the transparency of offshore centres follows the “Paradise Papers leak” in early November 2017 causing 13.4m files to be exposed from offshore law firm Appleby.

Before that, a data leak known as the Panama Papers took place, exposing 11.5m documents reportedly showing how HNW individuals had used offshore tax havens to evade taxes.

 

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