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Clarity and openness needed from Government in action on transparency in British overseas territories

13th May 2019, London – Transparency International welcomes the Government’s commitment today, in their response to a recent report by the Foreign Affairs Committee, to publish a timetable for the introduction of public registers of who owns companies in British overseas territories. However, this timetable should be published without delay and we call for more openness from the Government in how they are engaging with these overseas territories.

In February a report by the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee described it as “not acceptable” that public registers may not be published before 2023, saying “We cannot wait until public registers are a global norm and we cannot let considerations of competitiveness prevent us from taking action now.” The Government’s response to this report has reiterated that it will publish a timetable for implementation of these registers, but has as yet not done so.

This timetable must include an action plan of Government departments’ roles in assisting British overseas territories to bring in public registers  of company ownership by the end of 2020.

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

“At the heart of most serious corruption and money laundering cases are anonymous companies whose real owners are hidden from scrutiny. The secrecy made possible in British overseas territories, exploited by rogue lawyers, accountants and other business professionals, has been key to criminals across the world enjoying impunity for their actions. It does nothing to aid the reputation of financial centres to provide services and secrecy that enrich a corrupt global elite at the public’s expense.”

We’re pleased that the Government has committed to publishing a timetable for its activity with British overseas territories to bring about public registers of company ownership, but this now needs to happen urgently and should ensure these overseas territories are supported to bring in such registers by the end of 2020. Previous statements suggesting that these registers could only become active as late as 2023 are of deep concern; every day that passes without the transparency through public registers is another day where corrupt individuals can hide and move wealth they have stolen.”

“Overall we need to see better transparency from the Government during this process. It’s been almost six months since the British overseas territories met with UK Government in London and there still has not been a public statement outlining what was agreed.”

Recent analysis by TI-UK found 237 global economic crime cases – worth £250 billion – were enabled by 1,107 companies based in 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.

***ENDS***

Contact:

Dominic Kavakeb
Dominic.kavakeb@transparency.org.uk
+44 20 3096 7695
+44 75 4596 5302

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Read 110 times Last modified on Monday, 13 May 2019 14:12

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