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UK Overseas Territories commit to publicly accessible beneficial ownership registers

Posted on 03 August 2020

As we reported previously, the Crown dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man last year published plans to introduce public registers of the beneficial owners of companies. On 15 July 2020, the Foreign Secretary welcomed commitments from eight of the UK's Overseas Territories to introduce publicly accessible registers detailing who owns the companies in those territories. This development also follows work by Gibraltar earlier this year to make their company register publicly accessible.

The eight UK Overseas Territories which have committed to implement this measure are: Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands and St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

While corporate transparency may not seem an obvious area of priority during the current public health crisis, anti-money laundering and corruption has been identified as a serious issue at this time. The Financial Action Task Force, for example, has noted that criminals are taking advantage of the pandemic to carry out financial fraud, offering fraudulent investment opportunities and engaging in schemes preying on virus-related fears. It is therefore not surprising that the Government is continuing to push ahead with its beneficial ownership campaign, noting in its July statement that it is hopeful that publicly accessible registers will be a global norm by 2023.

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