Financial industry welcomes public registers move by Guernsey but Westminster wants more

Pedro Gonçalves
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Financial industry welcomes public registers move by Guernsey but Westminster wants more

Key players in Guernsey's financial sector have welcomed Guernsey's move towards a public register of beneficial ownership but some lawmakers in London have said that it is not enough.

Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man have recently announced they will voluntarily adopt public registers of the true owners of offshore companies incorporated in their jurisdictions.

The islands' registers of beneficial ownership of companies will be first connected to those within the EU for access by law enforcement authorities, then opened up to financial service businesses that require access for corporate due-diligence purposes and finally to the public in 2023 as laid down by the EU directive.

Transparency is a feature of the global finance industry and clients are coming to terms with that, so this move won't be a huge shock to anyone"

The transition should not bring any disruption to the financial sector operating in the jurisdiction.

"Transparency is a feature of the global finance industry and clients are coming to terms with that, so this move won't be a huge shock to anyone," Trust Corporation International director Lydia Essa told local news outlet Guernsey Press.

"The phased transition that the States of Guernsey is proposing is helpful to industry and the Crown Dependencies' commitment to creating a level playing field, in line with the EU, is especially encouraging," she added.

Stuart Platt-Ransom, chief executive officer at Oak Group, a private client, corporate services and fund administration group with offices in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, said: ‘The current registers are not secret as they are available to the authorities if needed.

"I think the real crux of this is quite simple. If and to the extent global protocol calls for this transparency, then that's fine and just. However, our registers are populated accurately by licensed and regulated trust and company service providers. It's a regulatory requirement to do this accurately. In the UK, for example, this is not the case".

However, this does not seem to be enough to convince some in Westminster. 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.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the move but said it was not enough.

‘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.

The beneficial ownership registers outline who owns a company and can currently only be accessed by local authorities within the Crown Dependencies.

The identity of anyone who owns over 25% of a registered company in the UK are currently publicly available.

 

 

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