LONDON (Reuters) - Several more countries and offshore territories have joined a scheme to clamp down on tax evasion and corruption launched by the continent’s biggest nations, Britain’s finance ministry said on Friday.
Nineteen additional authorities have agreed to automatically share information on who ultimately owns companies after the plan was announced last week by Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
The new signatories include British offshore low-tax jurisdictions Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, and Montserrat as well as the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium.
Earlier this month, a leak of confidential documents from a Panamanian law firm about offshore tax arrangements added to pressure on countries to improve tax transparency. The leak also had political repercussions in many countries including Britain, where the family finances of Prime Minister David Cameron came under scrutiny.
“It should be clear to all countries and tax jurisdictions that the world is moving firmly in the direction of greater tax transparency,” Chancellor George Osborne said in a statement.
“The UK will continue to push for an internationally agreed blacklist for those that refuse to do the right thing.”
Transparency International, an anti-corruption advocacy group, said the announcement showed countries understood the importance of sharing information about the owners of companies but more needed to be done.
“At the moment the information will be presented to law enforcement and tax authorities. But it must be made public in order to act as an effective deterrent,” a spokesman said.
He said an anti-corruption summit scheduled to take place in London on May 12 would be the perfect opportunity for the United States and other British overseas territories to join the movement towards transparency.
Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by William Schomberg