09 October 2019 – Following an announcement by the Cayman Islands that they will introduce a public register revealing the real owners of companies registered there by 2023, Global Witness is calling on all other British Overseas Territories (BOTs) to immediately follow suit.
In 2018 UK Parliament passed legislation requiring the BOTs to bring in public beneficial ownership registers, although jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands have previously publically resisted the move. Today’s announcement marks a positive step towards acceptance from the Cayman government that company ownership transparency is vital in fighting global financial crime.
The Panama Papers scandal in 2016 underlined the role of Britain’s Overseas Territories in global money laundering, with half of the companies involved in that leak being registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Naomi Hirst, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness, said:
“This commitment from the Cayman Islands to reveal the real people behind companies on their shores shows how company transparency is now the global standard in financial integrity. The writing is on the wall for the rest of the British Overseas Territories who will today be feeling the pressure to follow suit and announce their own plans as a matter of urgency.”
“Once public registers are brought in across all the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, it will be much harder for the criminal and corrupt to use UK tax havens to hide and move stolen wealth. As more and more countries and jurisdictions commit to company transparency, those failing to do so are becoming isolated voices in a more open world.”
Last June the UK’s Crown Dependencies – Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – made a commitment to consider tabling legislation for public registers in 2023.