Islands’ public registers move ‘not nearly enough’
‘NOT nearly enough’. That’s the warning from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over moves by Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man to establish publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership.
The three Crown Dependencies last week jointly announced plans to introduce publicly accessible registers, which set out who ultimately owns companies based in the islands. They have stressed their registers are effective, but would move to public access structures once this became the global norm.
While welcoming the move, Mr Corbyn warned it was not sufficient.
Mr Corbyn’s comments come after Labour MP Margaret Hodge and Tory MP Andrew Mitchell, who have led a parliamentary campaign on the issue, said the Crown Dependencies’ timeframe was ‘unacceptably long’ with public registers not available until 2024/25.
‘This is a vital first step that Labour has campaigned for but it’s not nearly enough. Funding for our public services is being slashed while a wealthy few hide trillions in offshore tax havens. Of course we must know who is avoiding paying their taxes,’ said the Labour leader in a post on Twitter.
Public access will be aligned to the approach taken in the European Union’s fifth anti-money laundering directive. The islands’ registers will be interconnected with those within the EU for access by law enforcement authorities and financial intelligence units. There will also be access for financial services businesses and certain other proscribed businesses for corporate due diligence purposes.
Work on interconnection and access for due diligence purposes will get under way this year and following years, according to Guernsey’s action plan. Legislative proposals for public access would then be published within 12 months of an EU-wide review into implementation of public registers, which is due in January 2022.
Deputy Gavin St Pier, president of the Policy & Resources Committee, stressed last week the importance of having a ‘practical and deliverable’ plan, which included the ‘very clear and public commitment’ on bringing forward legislative proposals.