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The latest moves in the Transparency Debate

30 May 2018

The latest moves in the Transparency Debate

A high-profile debate took place earlier this month in the UK’s House of Commons. The focus of the debate was a set of amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, bringing the issue of beneficial ownership and public registers back into the spotlight.

The result of that debate was that the amendment with respect to the Overseas Territories was carried while the amendment tabled with respect to the Crown Dependencies was withdrawn.

This result means that Britain’s overseas territories, which include the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the BVI and Gibraltar will have to make public the real owners of all their registered companies by the end of 2020. A major win for financial transparency campaigners, but a concern for the many beneficial owners of BVI and Cayman Companies who may feel this is an infringement of the right to privacy. 

Importantly however, this does not apply to the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. These jurisdictions are unaffected.

The withdrawal of the amendment which provided for UK domestic policy to be applied to the Crown Dependencies in respect of public registers has been welcomed by Jersey Finance, underlining the contention that the UK Parliament cannot and should not seek to legislate for the Crown Dependencies.

Jersey’s authorities have maintained a register of beneficial ownership since 1989 but have maintained the stance that there is no need for the information contained therein to be made public, believing it sufficient that the authorities have an accurate record which can be shared between relevant tax and law enforcement agencies as and when deemed necessary under international law.

Geoff Cook, CEO of Jersey Finance commented: “We are confident that our verified central register of beneficial ownership, backed up by trust and company service provider licensing, is fully in line with international standards as set out by the FATF, MoneyVal and the OECD, and remains the best way of achieving continuing compliance with international standards.” 

At Whitmill, we believe that in order to combat tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing, it is important to know the individual who is ultimately behind every company – the beneficial owner.

We also recognise that international standards on collecting information on the beneficial owners are improving across jurisdictions, but Jersey is an acknowledged world-leader in this field. 

  • Jersey is one of only a few jurisdictions with an effective, fit-for-purpose central register of company beneficial ownership
  • The information contained within Jersey’s register is subject to strict and robust validation by regulated professionals
  • The register, together with other legal and regulatory requirements, enables Jersey to provide law enforcement and tax authorities with ‘adequate, accurate and timely’ data on the beneficial ownership of Jersey companies
  • Jersey’s model is in line with the international standards of the FATF Recommendation

Transparency and public registries

It is important to note that while the information in Jersey’s registry is available to tax and law enforcement authorities, it is not public.

Whilst Whitmill fully supports tax compliance, there are some obvious issues as to why registers of beneficial ownership should not be made public including, for example, security concerns around making public the beneficial owners of residential property held by companies. 

To discuss the benefits of structuring through Jersey as a leading International Offshore Finance Centre and managed company services, trusts or foundations, please contact: Don Wijsmuller 

+44 (0)1534 886102 or don@whitmill.com

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