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British Overseas Territories reject public registries of beneficial ownership

Thursday, 11 December, 2014

Britain's Caribbean dependencies, led by the Cayman Islands, have rejected the UK’s attempts to force them to create publicly accessible registries of private companies' beneficial owners.

The rejection was delivered by the territories' finance ministers at a Joint Ministerial Council meeting last week, in response to a request by the UK to commit to the registry plan. Cayman Islands’ Premier Alden McLaughlin later told the Cayman parliament that he and his Finance Minister Wayne Panton had 'remained firm and re-stated our position', which is that any move to public registries must be implemented by the G20 countries first.

'I am pleased to say that so far the overseas territories and crown dependencies stand united on this issue', McLaughlin said. In the meantime, he added, the Cayman Islands would retain the status quo under which companies must record their beneficial ownership information and make it available to the proper authorities, but there is no publicly available central registry.

A survey conducted by the Cayman Islands’ government found that most businesses consider a central registry to be unnecessary, while a public registry 'would spell disaster for our financial services business', said McLaughlin.

He pointed out that none of the G20 countries have a public registry, and that, aside from the UK, none is likely to implement one. 'And neither will the Cayman Islands', he added, to the delight of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.

'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 OT or CD intend to go first and have our economies experimented with and potentially damaged', he said. '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.'

Bermuda has previously expressed the same view, although the BVI government is taking a less outspoken position. Its Premier and Minister of Finance, Orlando Smith, says the jurisdiction 'has not taken an official position on beneficial ownership', although it too is resisting pressure from the UK.

The territories' leaders will hold further discussions with the UK in February.

Sources