UK expected to renew pressure on British Overseas Territories over ownership registers

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The UK government is expected to resume its pressure on British Overseas Territories to set up registers of company beneficial ownership, at the Joint Ministerial Council meeting in London later this year.

Cayman Islands premier Alden McLaughlin made the announcement at a meeting of Overseas Territories (OTs) leaders in Bermuda last week. Although there has been a brief respite in the pressure from London since the UK general election, the matter has not gone away, he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron first presented the demand for an open registry to Britain's Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories in June 2013. The request has been explicitly rejected by most jurisdictions, on the basis that other industrial nations must take the lead – a line reaffirmed by McLaughlin and OT colleagues last week. The UK itself is the only country to have enacted relevant legislation.

In March this year, HM Treasury Financial Secretary David Gauke wrote to the BVI and Cayman Islands governments asking them to provide an implementation timetable for their own registries. There was no response, at least publicly, but McLaughlin has now indicated that the Cayman Islands may compromise on the alternative solution of a closed central register that can be accessed only by public authorities.

'There is no question that the overseas territories are going to be required to establish some kind of platform by which UK law enforcement and tax regulatory authorities have access', he told other OT leaders.


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