UK overseas territories fail to make ownership details public

Just eight of the UK’s fourteen overseas territories have agreed to establish publicly accessible beneficial ownership registers within the next three years as part of attempts to improve financial transparency.

The most significant financial centre yet to make company beneficial ownership details public is the British Virgin Islands (BVI) where the administration has been critical of UK efforts to persuade them to make registers compulsory and public.

The eight territories to have agreed to establish publicly accessible beneficial ownership registers are Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands and St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Progress on registers

In a written statement to the British parliament, minister for the overseas territories and sustainable development Baroness Sugg said the eight “have all demonstrated good progress and political leadership as part of the global effort to increase transparency in financial services and tackle illicit finance.”

‘We hope that the British Virgin Islands will also commit to publicly accessible registers of company beneficial ownership without delay,’ she added.

BVI opposition

But BVI Premier Andrew Fahie is sticking to his support of an alternative system, the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search system (BOSSs). He argues this places BVI on the cutting edge of beneficial ownership information exchange with the capability of responding to requests in real time

Fahie said the government of BVI had written to the UK government reiterating the territory’s continued commitment to the exchange of beneficial ownership information with the UK under the Exchange of Notes on Beneficial Ownership signed in 2016.

The BOSSs Act was introduced by BVI so that the Caribbean islands could avoid being placed on the EU’s blacklist.

UK position

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab meanwhile is still trying to convince BVI of the UK’s position.

“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,” he said.

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