Press release 16th Jul 2020

Boost to dirty money fight as British Overseas Territories make commitment to company transparency

Resistance from British Virgin Islands now an outlier

 

July 16, London - Confirmations from some of the UK’s Overseas Territories that they intend to end corporate secrecy by 2023 are a positive step in the fight against dirty money – leaving the British Virgin Islands as an outlier whose resistance threatens to undermine this progress.

The UK Government yesterday announced that eight of the UK’s Overseas Territories, including major financial centres the Cayman Islands and now Bermuda, are on a track to implementing public registers of beneficial ownership within three years.

These jurisdictions do not currently publish the names of the true owners of companies incorporated there. This anonymity is regularly exploited by criminals and the corrupt to secretly move, hide and funnel illicit funds into the UK.

But the British Virgin Islands – a jurisdiction our research has identified as a destination of choice for the corrupt – has yet to commit to a public register of company ownership.

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

“We welcome the co-operation the UK Government has received from several of the British Overseas Territories and their commitment to end corporate secrecy in their jurisdictions. For too long, opaque companies registered in places like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda have been a recognised tool used by criminals and the corrupt to funnel dirty money into the UK.

“Accurate, public registers of company ownership are vital tools in the fight against corruption and money laundering. The continued resistance to transparency measures by the British Virgin Islands risks leaving them out on a limb as investors move assets to financial centres adopting this emerging global standard of company transparency.

“Time is running out to get on board voluntarily, given the threat in UK law of actions by the end of this year forcing the Territory to follow suit.”

 

Notes to editors: 

Our Cost of Secrecy briefing illustrates how companies registered in secrecy jurisdictions are used by criminals and the corrupt as a way to mask the true source of their wealth.

Looking at 237 corruption cases from the past 30 years, we identified 1,201 different companies registered in the UK’s Overseas Territories that aided gross abuses of entrusted power for private gain around the world.

Of these 237 cases:

  • 213 involved companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands,
  • 32 involved firms in the Cayman Islands
  • 10 involved companies in Bermuda