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UK Offshore United Against Beneficial Ownership Proposals

by Jason Gorringe, Lowtax.net, London
19 December, 2014

The UK's overseas territories have jointly rejected calls from the UK Government for them to introduce public registers with information on the beneficial ownership of companies.

The territories rejected the proposal at a recent Joint Ministerial Council meeting. Cayman Premier Alden McLaughlin echoed statements made earlier by Bermuda, arguing that none of the Group of Twenty (G-20) nations have implemented a public registry and none look likely to.

The Joint Ministerial Council is the highest forum that brings together senior officials from the UK Government with the elected leaders and representatives of the Overseas Territories to discuss matters of mutual interest.

McLaughlin reported that the Cayman Islands had consulted with other UK territories, who had agreed that a public register is unnecessary and could be very damaging to the territories in the absence of a level playing field worldwide.

McLaughlin said after the meeting: "Unless such registers become the new global standard and are being used by all major players – including the UK – then neither we nor any other Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency intend to go first and have our economies experimented with and potentially damaged. We see no need for a central registry that would increase cost to business and the country and also create a potential single data source, which motivated and skilled individuals could hack into for gain."

He added: "So under the G20 principle, countries could opt for a central registry or use another appropriate mechanism that would provide the same outcome to quickly and efficiently provide law enforcement with information on beneficial ownership of entities that may be involved in criminal activity. Our systems do this now, as I have said, and it works well though we intend to improve on that system to further improve efficiencies."

The territories are to resume discussions on the collection of information on beneficial ownership with the UK in February.

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