Fifty-three countries that have formally agreed to share beneficial ownership information have issued a statement of intent, in which they jointly agree to curb offshore tax evasion and implement a new, globally-active Financial Action Task Force.
The statement, released by the UK Treasury earlier today, represents a formal commitment on the part of the 53-country group to share beneficial ownership information, and comes in the wake of April’s publication of the so-called Panama Papers data by an investigative journalists’ organisation, obtained via a leak from the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
The full statement, as released today, reads: “Recent leaks have served to highlight the importance of a clear understanding of the beneficial and legal owners of companies and other structures and entities. Where such information is not readily available for law enforcement authorities, both domestic and overseas, criminals are more easily able to hide financial crime including terrorist financing, money laundering and tax evasion which creates risk for all our jurisdictions in a global economy.
“In this regard we are committed to implementing the existing Financial Action Task Force standards, ensuring that the legal and beneficial owners of companies, trusts, foundations, shell companies and other relevant entities and arrangements are identified and available for law enforcement authorities and tax administrations.”
It continues: “We have also made a political commitment to support the development of a new global system for the systematic exchange of beneficial ownership information on a reciprocal basis which is secure, respects confidentiality, is in a searchable format, minimises additional burdens and achieves a level playing field.
“Such enhanced international accessibility will provide law enforcement authorities with a powerful tool to track and catch cross-border criminal activity and uncover the complex trails used by criminals. We welcome the work of FATF, the OECD, and the Global Forum in improving the availability of beneficial ownership information as well as domestic and international access to such information.
“We are committed to remaining at the forefront of this global agenda.”
The statement was signed by the following countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Anguilla, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Montserrat, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United Arab Emirates.