The Bahamas' companies registrar general is striking thousands of companies from the register because as just 50% of companies are thought to be "active".
Most of the companies being wiped off from the register have been inactive for over 20 years or have not complied with the rules on fees and filings for many years. There are about 80,000 companies on the registry.
Bahamas' deputy prime minister K. Peter Turnquest told local news outlet Tribune Business that the "gazzetting" of their removal under recent reforms made to the Companies Act was intended to clean-up the registry and bring The Bahamas into compliance with its obligations under the Register of Beneficial Ownership Act.
I believe there's about 80,000 companies on the registry and about 40,000 are regarded to be active"
"This is all a part of the beneficial ownership registry," he said . "We have an obligation to know who the beneficial owners of all these companies are. A lot of them are companies that have been inactive and not met their commitments in terms of fees and filings. We can't find the people responsible, so are just striking them according to the law.
"They have to be registered. We need to know who's who and what they're trying to do, all of it. I believe there's about 80,000 companies on the registry and about 40,000 are regarded to be active."
The action results from the jurisdiction's new beneficial ownership reporting regime, as set out last November in the Register of Beneficial Ownership Act, 2018. This law, part of a set of Bills required to satisfy the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), amended the Companies Act to create an obligation on all Bahamas companies to notify the registrar of persons with significant control over the company. As even the identities of the current directors of inactive companies were not accurately known, this provided an opportunity to 'clean up' the companies register.
Sallyann Lockhart-Pratt, the registrar general, confirmed that the 90-day notice period for companies to pay fees and submit filings more than 20 years' outstanding had expired. This gives her her legal powers to "remove a company from the register which is, for more than 20 years, in default" without giving prior notice or warning.
Turnquest said that the "scale" of the registry clean-up had likely never been seen before in The Bahamas. Suggesting that it was "a long time overdue", he added: "This is something that should have been happening on a continuous basis."