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UK: Parliament votes to require overseas territories to adopt public company ownership registers by 2020

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1 May 2018

'Dirty money': U-turn as Tories back plans to make tax havens transparent

Author: Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian (UK)

…The retreat was forced on Theresa May’s government after the Speaker rejected a string of government compromise amendments, which would have watered down the disclosure commitment, because they were tabled so late. Afterwards, some of the overseas territories voiced their unhappiness at what had been agreed at Westminster. The Hodge/Mitchell amendment requires the 14 overseas territories, including the financial centres of the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, to introduce public ownership registers by the end of 2020 or face having them imposed by the UK government.

About half of the companies referred to in the Panama Papers, offshore ownership disclosures revealed by a consortium of investigative journalist organisations including the Guardian, were set up in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), according to Transparency International. The campaign group Global Witness estimates that £68bn flowed out of Russia via the British overseas territories between 2007 and 2016.

…Jon Date, senior advocacy manager at ActionAid UK, said: “These measures will help flush out the corruption and tax evasion that keeps the most vulnerable people in the world – including women and girls – locked in poverty. By accepting this amendment, ministers will ensure that Britain will lead, not follow, when it comes to UK-linked tax havens.”…

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1 May 2018

Biggest move against corruption in years - UK Government votes for transparency

Author: Naomi Hirst & Ava Lee, Global Witness

Today the UK government voted for transparency. By agreeing to push the UK’s Overseas Territories to publish public registers of the real owners of their companies, the UK has led the world in one of the biggest moves we have seen in the fight against corruption for years. This is HUGE.

Why? Because as so many of our investigations over the years have revealed, corrupt officials, McMafia style-mobsters and oligarchs use companies registered in these Territories, places like the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, to hide their criminal activities.

The anonymous companies for sale in these jurisdictions allow the corrupt and the criminal to steal, hide and move suspect funds around the world. And over a year ago, the Panama Papers demonstrated their importance, as they revealed that more than half of the companies named in the papers were registered in the UK’s Overseas Territories…

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1 May 2018

Crack down on U.K.’s offshore territories increases pressure on U.S. to end anonymous companies

Author: FACT Coalition

...Gary Kalman, the executive director of the FACT Coalition, issued the following statement:

"Today, the United Kingdom took important steps to crack down on a number of the world's most infamous places to hide illicit cash. The Cayman Islands, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and others will soon put an end to the abuse of anonymous companies. Corrupt leaders and individuals will no longer be able to hide behind the veil of corporate secrecy available to them in the U.K.'s offshore territories. That money will have to find a new place if the bad actors are to stay ahead of law enforcement and national security officials. It is not a stretch to expect that a flood of illicit cash is about to pour into the U.S. financial system. It's not the kind of investment we should welcome. The U.S. is already one of the top places in the world for drug cartels, human trafficking operations, rogue nations and corrupt leaders to hide and hold the proceeds of their crimes. The 2018 Financial Secrecy Index ranked the U.S. second only to Switzerland. As the rest of the world moves toward transparency and accountability, we may well become the top haven for dirty money. Congress should move immediately to protect the integrity of our financial system. They should pass bipartisan legislation to end anonymous companies."

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1 May 2018

UK territories ordered to open up about secretive companies

Author: Andrew MacAskill, Reuters

Britain agreed on Tuesday to order its overseas territories such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands to make secretive company ownership information public by the end of 2020 to try to tackle corruption and tax avoidance. The move was hailed as a major victory by campaigners in the fight against tax avoidance and money laundering…with campaign groups saying such secrecy aids money laundering, tax evasion and corrupt diversion of public funds from developing economies… Margaret Hodge, the opposition Labour member of parliament who introduced the amendment, said it would help prevent tax evasion and disrupt the activities of criminals and militant groups. “It will stop them exploiting our secret regime, hiding their toxic wealth and laundering money into the legitimate system, often for nefarious purposes,” she said.

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