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Crown Dependencies ‘provide getaway cars for terrorists’

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ANONYMOUSLY-OWNED companies – many formed in the Crown Dependencies – can act as ‘getaway cars for terrorists, dictators, money launderers and tax evaders all over the world’, a campaign group has claimed.

Policy & Resources president Deputy Gavin St Pier with MPs Andrew Mitchell and Dame Margaret Hodge when they visited the island for meetings about their demand for public registers of beneficial ownership in the Crown Dependencies.(Picture by Peter Frankland, 24153648)

Global Witness, which campaigns against corruption, also said that Guernsey had popped up as a jurisdiction of incorporation for companies that it had investigated as it urged the Prime Minister Theresa May to act over financial transparency rules.

‘Anonymous companies have featured in countless corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion scandals – ending the ability to sell corporate secrecy will throw a huge spanner in the works of corrupt dictators, tax evaders and organised criminals,’ said Naomi Hirst, senior anti-corruption campaigner at Global Witness.

‘Theresa May cannot, and should not, wait for the rest of the world to come on board before we open up the UK tax havens. Government must call time on the corrupt and push the UK and its territories to lead from the front in the fight against dirty money.’

The campaigner, who has not visited Guernsey, also said: ‘Anonymously-owned companies, many of them formed in the UK’s Crown Dependencies, can act as getaway cars for terrorists, dictators, money launderers and tax evaders all over the world’.

P&R president Gavin St Pier has previously said that ‘anyone looking to evade tax or launder money is foolish to attempt to do so using our jurisdiction’.

In a letter sent to MPs pushing for public registers of beneficial ownership of companies, he said that Guernsey met the highest standards of transparency as recognised by international organisations and bodies. ‘The assessment by those bodies show that our standards exceed those of the UK.’

His letter set out how Guernsey’s existing register of beneficial ownership worked, including tax information ‘spontaneously’ exchanged using the established framework internationally as well as through the Exchange of Notes system with the UK.

The Guernsey register was fully populated with data checked and verified by company service providers, which was a legal duty with penalties for non-compliance. The UK public register was based on self-declared data and updated annually, said Deputy St Pier.

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‘Consequently, the Guernsey data set is of a higher quality than the UK’s. The information contained within the UK register is unverified; it is only what individuals are happy to acquiesce is placed in the public domain.

‘Under these circumstances, it is understandable that the UK has made a policy decision that the register be public, presumably in the hope that the information might be verified by third parties instead.’

Deputy St Pier also said: ‘There is an assumption, which is not backed up by any evidence, that public registers of beneficial ownership are more effective at fighting financial crime and terrorism than private and transparent registers. This is one of the reasons that public registers are not yet an international standard.

‘Guernsey has a long track record of adopting international standards as they emerge and sees the benefit in the creation of an international standard for registers.’

‘We have already supported global initiatives in this regard. Guernsey has developed its domestic policy in the absence of an international standard.’

Will Green

By Will Green
Business Editor

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