WASHINGTON, DC – Global Financial Integrity (GFI) lauded UK Prime Minister David Cameron today for urging all British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies in a letter today to crack down on the abuse of anonymous shell companies by creating public registries of meaningful beneficial ownership information. The letter follows recent moves by the UK Government, which is currently in the process of creating the world’s first such public registry to do the same.
“Prime Minister Cameron continues to show strong leadership on this issue,” said GFI President Raymond Baker, a longtime authority on financial crime. “Anonymous shell companies are the number one tool for laundering the proceeds of crime, corruption, and tax evasion. Creating public registries of the true, human, ‘beneficial’ owners of each company—as the British government is in the process of doing—is a common sense approach to curbing financial crime and the tremendous flow of illegal money worldwide.”
“Of course, a public registry of mainland UK companies can only go so far,” continued Mr. Baker. “The Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories include some of the world’s most notorious tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions, like the British Virgin Islands, which routinely incorporate such phantom firms. Getting the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories to create public registries would strengthen the integrity of the global financial system and hinder the operations of human traffickers, drug cartels, and terrorists.”
“Naturally, we urge the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories to heed the Prime Minister’s advice and begin the process of establishing public registries as soon as practicable,” added Mr. Baker.
Along with an overwhelming endorsement of public registries of corporate ownership information by the European Parliament last month, Mr. Cameron’s letter continues to raise pressure on the United States to follow suit.
“The U.S. is the second easiest place in the world, next to Kenya, for someone to create an anonymous shell company to launder illicit proceeds,” noted Heather Lowe, GFI’s legal counsel and director of government affairs. “The White House has repeatedlyendorsed the need for legislation to ensure that beneficial ownership information on all U.S. companies is available (at least) to law enforcement, but the President has not yet stated the Administration’s support for bipartisan legislation—that has been introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate—which would create registries of beneficial ownership information to do exactly that.
“The Administration and Congressional leadership have been slow to push the issue,” continued Ms. Lowe. “Now is the time for Congress and the Administration to live up to their G8 and Open Government Partnership commitments by moving to pass legislation to protect the American people from criminals laundering their proceeds through the U.S. financial system.”
Notes to Editors:
GFI spokespersons are available to comment on the letter. To schedule an interview with Mr. Baker, Ms. Lowe or other GFI spokespersons, contact Clark Gascoigne at +1 202 293 0740 ext. 222 (Office) / email@example.com.
Click here to read an HTML version of this press release on our website.
Click here to read Prime Minister David Cameron’s letter to the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, dated April 25, 2014.
Click here for the latest update (dated April 21, 2014) from the British government on their move to create a public registry of beneficial ownership information.
Click here to read more about last month’s vote in the European Parliament endorsing public registries.
Click here to read the White House’s G8 commitment to tackle anonymous shell companies.
Click here to read the White House’s Open Government Partnership plan which commits to tackling anonymous shell companies.
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Global Financial Integrity (GFI) is a Washington, DC-based research, advisory, and advocacy organization, which promotes transparency in the international financial system as a means to global development.