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UK government repeats registry demands on Overseas Territories

Monday, 30 March, 2015

STEP Lead

The UK government has written to the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands repeating its demand that they set up a central registry of private companies' beneficial ownership.

Prime Minister David Cameron first presented the demand for an open registry to Britain's Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories in June 2013. It was softened by a promise that the UK and the G8 countries would do the same.

While agreeing to consider the matter, none of the UK's Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories have actually set the matter in motion, beyond a consultation exercise. Several have explicitly stated that they will not do so until the G8 and other nations have taken the lead.

The European Union has now agreed legislation to implement such a registry, and last week the UK itself enacted a bill mandating the setting-up of a registry by April 2016 (Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015). The following day, Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke and Foreign Officer Minister James Duddridge jointly wrote to the BVI and Cayman Islands' governments asking them to provide an implementation timetable for their own registries. No response has yet been given.

  • The pressure on Britain's Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to set up these registers does not come only from the current Conservative-Liberal government. Last month, the leader of the UK's opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, told them he will force them to set up public registers of company beneficial ownership if Labour wins the general election in May. If they did not comply within six months of the election, he said, he would recommend the OECD to blacklist them as 'tax havens'.

Sources