June 19, 2019 / 5:15 AM / a month ago

UK dependencies to reveal company ownership amid tax haven crackdown

FILE PHOTO: A general view of Saint Peter Port in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, July 3, 2017. Picture taken July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce

LONDON (Reuters) - The three British Crown Dependencies - Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man - said on Wednesday they would move to reveal publicly the true ownership of firms based in their jurisdictions, a change welcomed by anti-corruption campaigners.

The three island territories pledged action consistent with European Union anti-money laundering rules that include a requirement for a public beneficial ownership register, which is key to efforts to combat the misuse of shell companies to hide money.

Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man said in a joint statement they would bring forward legislation for public access to a central register within 12 months of an EU anti-money-laundering review which is due in January 2022.

“We hope to encourage other jurisdictions to raise their own standards, particularly in relation to the verification of data and the regulation of the financial services sector,” Jersey’s external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said.

Naomi Hirst, a campaigner at anti-corruption group Global Witness, said the announcement was a big step in the fight against dirty money.

“The proof will of course be in the pudding - we have some concerns over the timeframe and that the details could leave plenty of room to manoeuvre,” Hirst said in a statement.

“The era of secrecy is a thing of the past and other tax havens must now make their own moves to bring the real people behind anonymously-owned companies out of the shadows. Any state failing to do so risks being left behind.”

Last year, Britain said it would order overseas territories such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands to make company ownership information public by the end of 2020.

Last week, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators said they were introducing a bill to toughen U.S. laws requiring shell companies to disclose their true owners’ identity.

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Tom Brown

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