Press release 04th Mar 2019

Government still shielding offshore finance from Parliament

Press Office 
+ 44 (0)20 3096 7695 
Out of hours:
Weekends; Weekdays (17.30-21.30):
+44 (0)79 6456 0340s

Related Publication

4th March 2019, London – The Government has today pulled a bill that faced critical amendments on transparency in the British Overseas Territories (OTs) and Crown Dependencies (CDs).

MPs had been due to vote on an amendment to the Financial Services Bill that would require public registers of who owns companies in the OTs and CDs to be introduced by 31st December 2020. This amendment would further strengthen legislation that was passed last year and follows a recent report by the Foreign Affairs Committee that expressed concern at the Governments timetable to introduce such registers.

Recent analysis by TI-UK found 237 global economic crime cases – worth £250 billion – were enabled by 1,107 companies based in the British Overseas Territories. An analysis of the £4.4 billion worth of UK property we have found to be bought with suspicious wealth also shows three fifths is owned by companies based in these jurisdictions.

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

“For too long the British Government has shielded Britain’s Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies from calls by anti-corruption campaigners for greater company transparency. As a result of the Hodge-Mitchell amendment the profound concerns of MPs across the political parties is impossible to ignore. Before this Bill returns to the Commons, it’s imperative on the Government to be unambiguous in their determination to see company registries in these territories opened up”

“At the heart of most serious corruption and money laundering cases are anonymous companies whose real owners are hidden from scrutiny by lawyers, accountants and rogue professionals. Case upon case has shown secrecy havens like the BVI, and the Cayman Islands have been key to criminals across the world enjoying impunity for their actions.”

“We now call on the Government to set out a clear and detailed timetable it expects for the introduction of public registers in the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, and we urge all Governments to actively look for solutions to ensure public registers of beneficial ownership are available in these jurisdictions at the earliest opportunity. Every day that passes without the transparency brought by public registers is another day where corrupt individuals can hide and move wealth they have stolen. We hope that MPs will soon be given a new opportunity to commit the UK government in law to this action and that MPs of all parties will support these moves.”