UK territories ordered to open up about secretive firms

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government agreed on Tuesday to order its abroad territories to make secretive company possession data public to attempt to sort out corruption and tax avoidance.

FILE PHOTO: Margaret Hodge, Labour Party Member of Parliament and chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), poses for a portrait after chatting with Reuters about company taxation, in Westminster, central London April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Overseas territories and crown dependencies have come beneath rising strain to disclose who is behind anonymously owned firms, with marketing campaign teams saying such secrecy aids cash laundering, tax evasion and corrupt diversion of public funds from growing economies.

Many of those territories, such because the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, have giant monetary providers sectors as a result of they levy low taxes and possession of companies lacks transparency.

Despite repeated requires extra openness, British crown dependencies and abroad territories are solely required to disclose data on the true house owners of offshore firms to legislation enforcement our bodies, after which provided that requested.

Alan Duncan, a junior overseas workplace minister, instructed parliament the government would assist an modification introduced by two Members of Parliament calling for a central register of company possession in these territories as lawmakers debated an modification on an anti-money laundering legislation.

“We have listened to the strength of feeling in his house on this issue and accept that it is without a doubt the majority view of this house that the overseas territories should have public registers,” Duncan mentioned.

Britain has been making efforts to clamp down on tax evasion and corrupt flows of cash by means of its giant monetary providers sector, however has confronted resistance from a few of its abroad territories as a result of the secrecy and low taxes are what makes their finance sectors enticing.

Margaret Hodge, the opposition Labour Member of Parliament who launched the modification, mentioned it is going to assist forestall tax evasion and disrupt the actions of felony gangs and militant teams.

“It will stop them exploiting our secret regime, hiding their toxic wealth and laundering money into the legitimate system, often for nefarious purposes,” she mentioned.

“With open registers we will then know who owns what and where, and we will be able to see where the money flows, and then we will better equipped to root out dirty money and deal with the issues that arise from that.”

Duncan Hames, a director of coverage at Transparency International UK, mentioned these territories have been the “Achilles Heel” of Britain’s defence towards cash laundering.

“Corrupt individuals everywhere will be deeply concerned that they are about to lose the secrecy afforded by the British Overseas Territories that has until now given them an easy route to launder their ill-gotten gains,” he mentioned.

Editing by Stephen Addison

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