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Last minute Government move would let Overseas Territories off the hook on transparency

1st May 2018, London – A last minute amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, introduced by the Government, challenges efforts by MPs to introduce transparency over company ownership in the British Overseas Territories.

A cross-party amendment – due to be discussed today in the House – tabled by Margaret Hodge and Andrew Mitchell would require the British Overseas Territories to introduce public registers that would reveal the individuals behind companies formed in these jurisdictions. However, a late Government amendment seeks to introduce new hurdles that would prevent Parliament from insisting on the introduction of such registers.

Secrecy in these territories is allowing corrupt individuals from around the world to hide the hundreds of billions of pounds in wealth they have stolen from their populations and launder it through global financial centres like the UK. Last week, working with Transparency International, BBC Panorama published details of a Ukrainian crime gang that had purchased 8 luxury properties in London using British Virgin Islands (BVI) companies. Transparency International has found at least £4.4 billion worth of property in the UK bought with suspicious wealth – half of this using companies based in just the BVI alone.

 

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said:

“It is disappointing that the Government continues to resist cross party proposals to open up financial centres in the British Overseas Territories and instead is seeking to introduce new obstacles to forcing progress.”

 “Britain’s overseas territories are at the heart of a global system in which anonymous companies shield their owners from accountability for their actions. It is the secrecy offered by these jurisdictions that gives corrupt individuals impunity to launder illicit funds into the UK, notably into the property market. Failing to act in Britain’s Overseas Territories will undermine Government attempts to tackle dirty money here.”

“This is the perfect opportunity for the Government to put real action into many of the strong words we have heard recently, particularly in terms of sanctions initiatives since the Salisbury incident. The Government should, therefore, withdraw this amendment and support the cross-party efforts to bring about real transparency in the British Overseas Territories. This is exactly the sort of vote that will indicate whether the UK intends to uphold the rule of law and the highest standards of integrity post-Brexit or instead turn a blind eye to corruption overseas.” 

***ENDS***

Contact:

Dominic Kavakeb
020 3096 7695
079 6456 0340
dominic.kavakeb@transparency.org.uk

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Read 115 times Last modified on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 12:37

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