Speaking to Manx Radio, Isle of Man chief minister Howard Quayle refused to bow to pressure after the UK’s opposition Labour Party moved to compel the Crown Dependencies to make the data public.
“People cannot hide and avoid tax with our beneficial ownership register but we feel that genuine people should not have to declare everything that they own. There are countries sadly in the world where your family will be kidnapped if people realise what you own.
“Therefore they have the right to protection. As long as we respond straight away to jurisdictions that have terrorist concerns or tax avoidance concerns, then that’s what we’ve agreed to do,” he told the station.
“It’s the international norm, I’m very disappointed that there are still some in Westminister who would try to force us to have a public register,” added Quayle.
Tax evasion crackdown
Last April, the UK government unveiled a crackdown on tax evasion following the Panama Papers leak, which exposed how the rich and powerful used offshore shell companies to hide their wealth and to avoid paying tax.
As a result, all of the crown dependencies and British overseas territories such as the Isle of Man, Cayman Islands and Gibraltar are now required to exchange information relating to the beneficial ownership of companies to UK law enforcement.
The Isle of Man, along with Jersey and Guernsey, has resisted the move, committing instead to a new central register on beneficial ownership – available to law enforcement agencies and other tax authorities but not to the public.
Last October, the British Virgin Islands also told International Adviser that it has ruled out adopting a public register of beneficial ownership for the time being, adding it would not support the move unless it was adopted worldwide.
Cayman Islands’ register
Meanwhile, the Cayman Island has agreed to create a beneficial ownership register, accessible only to law enforcement and tax authorities, after passing legislation allowing a searchable database of the ultimate owners of companies registered to the Island.
The move means the Island is on track to meet the UK’s June deadline for the data-sharing agreement, said its premier Alden McLaughlin