The international development committee had argued that the government “so far failed to persuade” these jurisdictions to create these registers, and lack of transparency would “significantly hinder efforts to curb global corruption and continue to damage the UK’s reputation as a leader on anti-corruption”.
In its written response to the committee’s fourth report on tackling corruption overseas, the government disagreed, saying almost all the relevant overseas territories and crown dependencies had already given their support to an initiative launched by the UK for the development of a new global standard on automatic exchange of beneficial ownership information between countries.
“This will prevent criminals hiding behind anonymous ‘shell’ companies, and marks a significant increase in the ability of law enforcement authorities to investigate bribery and corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. This puts them well ahead of many of our major international partners including financial centres such as Delaware.”
It further said it would continue to focus efforts on ensuring that the jurisdictions “deliver on these important commitments and that UK law enforcement authorities make the most of the information to which they are gaining access”.
Last December, the Cayman Islands gazetted two pieces of legislation that paved the way for the jurisdiction to create a platform where overseas authorities can access information on the beneficial owners of companies and other financial entities.
In May last year, former UK prime minister David Cameron set out a raft of new initiatives, including beneficial ownership registers, at an anti-corruption summit to tackle corruption, which he described as the “cancer at the heart of so many of the world’s problems”.
In April last year, Jersey Finance fought against calls for the island’s register of who owns which companies to be made public in the wake of the Panama Papers leak.