Overseas territories to fight UK’s public register demands

Overseas territories to fight UK’s public register demands

Two of Britain’s overseas territories are preparing to launch legal challenges to the UK government’s plans to impose a public register detailing beneficial ownership of companies listed in the jurisdictions.

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the Cayman Islands are both intending to counter Westminster’s planned changes to the legislation, known as the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act, which received Royal Assent at the end of April this year. The new amended law would make publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership compulsory for companies registered in British Overseas Territories, also known as BOTs (including the Cayman Islands and the BVI) by 31 December 2020.

If that deadline is missed, the act requires the UK Secretary of State to draft orders to force the territories to comply.

The BVI is currently in the process of formulating the challenge while the Cayman Islands government has yet to officially specify its next steps. According to reports, it is understood the two challenges could be combined, but are currently bring pursued separately.

As reported earlier this week, international law firm Withers will act on behalf of the BVI government and will instruct counsel Dan Sarooshi and BVI constitutional lawyer Gerard Farara, senior partner at offshore firm Collas Crill’s BVI office.

Hussein Haeri, partner and head of Withers’ public international law team, explained: “We are confident that there are constitutional grounds for challenging the imposition of a public register of the beneficial ownership of companies and human rights issues raised by public access to the register.

“The BVI’s consistent position is that it will not introduce public registers unless and until they become a global standard.”

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Christopher Copper-Ind

Christopher Copper-Ind is editor-in-chief of International Investment. Before this, he was editorial director of The Business Year, from 2014 to 2017.