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Transparency International calls on MPs to back transparency in Overseas Territories

Territories like British Virgin Islands “Achilles Heel” in UK defences against dirty money
Transparency International calls on MPs to back transparency in Overseas Territories

30th April 2018, London – Transparency International is urging MPs to support an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill that would require British Overseas Territories to reveal the names of individuals controlling companies in those territories.

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.

Tomorrow MPs will debate a cross-party amendment led by Margaret Hodge and Andrew Mitchell that would require jurisdictions like the BVI to introduce public registers that reveal the individuals behind companies formed there, removing the anonymity that otherwise allows them to hide the source of their wealth.

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

“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.”

“This wealth is often stolen from countries that struggle to afford to provide the education and health services their people desperately need. Nor can ‘Global Britain’ afford to have its reputation trashed by turning a blind eye to the abuse of corporate structures in British overseas territories to launder these funds. It’s time to open-up the company registers of our offshore financial centres.”

“MPs from all sides of the Commons are coming together tomorrow to call time on this corrupted system. The choice before them is clear: vote for transparency to expose the corrupt, or back the status quo so that the UK remains a safe haven for dirty money.”

Whilst a recent announcement by the Government to crack down on the role in global money laundering of Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs) – the UK’s home-grown secrecy vehicle – is welcome, Transparency International warns they should not rely too heavily on existing regulation of company formation agents.

Hames said:

“We welcome the Government’s recognition that more action is needed to tackle Scottish Limited Partnership’s role in global money laundering, a form of company we have described as Britain’s home-grown secrecy vehicle.

“We are however concerned that the Government’s proposals rely too heavily on the integrity of all company formation agents. Our past research has shown in many cases where SLPs were involved in global money laundering schemes, they were in fact set up by company formation agents. For these proposals to have any impact, this sector will need to be better regulated.”

***ENDS***

Contact:

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

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Read 71 times Last modified on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 10:42

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