Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, prime minister David Cameron announced that all of the crown dependencies and British overseas territories have formally agreed to disclose information relating to the beneficial ownership of companies with two exceptions: Guernsey and Anguilla, although they are expected to soon.
Who owns what?
He said: “UK offshore territories have agreed to provide full information to UK law enforcement agencies on ‘who really owns and controls every company’ in those territories.
“For the first time UK police and law enforcement will be able to see exactly who really owns and controls every company incorporated in these territories – Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Isle of Man, Jersey, the lot.”
In June the UK will become “the first country in the G20 to have a public register of beneficial ownership” revealing who owns which company, Cameron added.
While a formal agreement has not yet been signed between Guernsey and the UK, a letter of intent was sent last week to the prime minister from chief minister of Guernsey, Jonathan Le Tocq.
It stated: “We note that formal agreements are under consideration between the UK’s law enforcement authorities and counterpart authorities in other jurisdictions. We too will consider putting in place a reciprocal agreement between Guernsey and the UK’s respective law enforcement authorities as soon as is practicable after our election.”
Guernsey’s deputy treasury and resources minister, Gavin St Pier, added: “As a strong partner of the UK in fighting tax evasion and corruption, we welcome the initiatives set out by the prime minister as we have the same outcomes in mind.”
Ian Gorst, chief minister of Jersey, said: “The terms of this agreement are essentially business as usual for Jersey: the island regulates all trust and company service providers and the professionals who provide these services are subject to ongoing supervision.
“They are required to provide accurate, up to date information on beneficial owners to the companies’ registry, which forms the central register of beneficial ownership.
“This new agreement will involve the use of technology to speed up our response to requests, so we can answer non-urgent queries in 24 hours and urgent queries in one hour. This is in response to a need for information without delay where terrorist activities are involved and is of particular significance in the light of recent events in Paris and Brussels.”
Isle of Man
As reported on Monday morning, the Isle of Man has also agreed to set up and maintain a database of beneficial ownership information that will be available to UK law enforcement agencies.
It has committed to providing ‘adequate, accurate, and current’ information on all corporate and legal entities incorporated in the jurisdiction.
IoM chief minister Allan Bell said: “This has been achieved through ongoing constructive discussion and is an important demonstration of our long-standing partnership to tackle corruption, tax evasion and other serious criminality.
“The Isle of Man is not a place where criminals can find a welcome. We have a strong track record of compliance with international standards and this commitment with the United Kingdom will further strengthen our defences against criminal activity.
“A truly global approach to tax transparency and information sharing is needed to fight the scourge of serious crime. As a well-regulated and internationally responsible country, the Isle of Man is committed to playing its part in efforts to achieve meaningful progress,” Bell said.