Eight Overseas Territories commit to make company registers publicly accessible

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office told parliament on 15 July that it had received commitments from eight Overseas Territories (OTs) to introduce publicly accessible registers detailing who owns the companies in their territory.

The eight UK OTs that have now committed to implement this measure are: Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands & St Helena, Ascension Island & Tristan da Cunha, and the Turks & Caicos Islands.

The UK Government has led an international campaign to make such registers a global norm by 2023 and is hopeful the only remaining permanently inhabited territory not to make an announcement, the British Virgin Islands, will make a similar commitment soon. The FCO said it was continuing to work with the BVI government to encourage it to take this action.

The UK government already has arrangements with the Overseas Territories under which they provide UK law enforcement authorities access to information on the ownership of companies in their jurisdictions to enable them to detect money laundering and financial crime.

The Sanctions & Money Laundering Act 2018 required the UK government to prepare a draft Order in Council before the end of 2020 to enforce the setting up of publicly available beneficial ownership registers in all OTs. This provision was forced through by MPs against the wishes of the UK government at the time, which did however manage to delay the implementation deadline until 2023.
UK Overseas Territories’ minister Baroness Sugg told parliament: “The 2023 deadline aligns with the [UK] government’s international campaign to advance publicly accessible company beneficial ownership registers as a global norm. Meeting this date will be a considerable ask for many [British] OTs, given their limited resources; especially those OTs that do not currently have a company beneficial ownership register … It will involve significant legislative and operational changes.”

The announcements demonstrate the positive action the UK’s Overseas Territories are taking to help tackle illicit finance and follows work by Gibraltar, earlier this year in March, to make its company register publicly accessible. The government expects that beneficial ownership information on businesses registered in the Overseas Territories will be accessible to the public by 2023.

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