Miliband and public central registers

The Labour leader’s statement today on the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories record on tax transparency sadly seems to bear all the hallmarks of electioneering, and is designed to put pressure on the Cameron administration. This is a shame as it is an important subject.

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So far as Jersey is concerned we have captured beneficial ownership information on a corporate registry since 1999 and this information is available to law enforcement agencies.

The Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) regularly undertakes rigorous on-site examinations of businesses to assess compliance.

Given there is ready access and availability of beneficial ownership information to foreign fiscal and investigative authorities, the industry does not believe there is further benefit in pursuing a public register.

Furthermore, Jersey’s ability to capture ownership information of companies is far ahead of those available in other onshore and offshore jurisdictions including the UK, which is so far alone in calling for a public registry. Indeed at the last meeting of G20 nations, one of the key findings on beneficial ownership was an endorsement of the current Financial Action Task Force (FATF) approach which is to ensure that the true owners of value are known, that this information is readily available and that it can be exchanged between governments without undue difficulty.’

We believe this is the prudent approach as a public registry will be of dubious value, will be bypassed by criminals and those who misuse companies to launder money and for tax evasion purposes, while data will be unreliable.

Jersey leads on current international standards through operating a central registry and through regulating all corporate service providers, who have a legal obligation to ensure that accurate and up to date information is held on the real owners of companies, trusts and bank accounts. Few other countries do this, including the UK.

Calling for the blacklisting of a jurisdiction that already operates to a higher standard than the UK, and indeed most other countries, will not impress the OECD, who are highly unlikely to act on a request to pursue discriminatory action that is not well founded in international standards and regulation, and would by implication require them to blacklist France, Germany and the USA.

 

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