May 8, 2017
It is common for corrupt individuals to use a global web of anonymous companies, trusts and other legal entities situated across multiple jurisdictions to transfer and hide their illicitly sourced funds. These structures shroud the identity of the individuals who own and control companies and other legal entities. Illicit money is laundered through the UK, and then used to fund luxury lifestyles.
Layers of secrecy facilitated by secret company ownership prevent effective investigations by police and checks by those working in sectors such as property. This means that UK assets can be acquired anonymously and anti-money laundering checks can be bypassed with relative ease.
Public registers of the real owners of companies – the beneficial owners- have been a central demand in the fight against corruption, money-laundering and corporate secrecy.
In the Summit communique, leaders agreed to
“…take steps to eliminate loopholes that allow corruption to thrive through the misuse of these entities, and work, in accordance with national law, to ensure a level playing field between foreign and domestic companies in respect of requirements to provide beneficial ownership information.”
At the Anti-Corruption Summit the UK stated that ‘the UK’s public central register of company beneficial ownership information for all companies incorporated in the UK will be launched in June 2016.”
Then-Prime Minister David Cameron said that public registers of beneficial ownership information were the “gold standard”, and every country should ultimately aim to have them.
The UK’s public register of beneficial ownership information was published at the end of June 2016, and was the first of its kind in the world.
In 2018 the UK launched a global campaign to make public registers of beneficial ownership a global norm, and in 2019 it launched a public consultation on reforms to Companies House to ensure the data held in the UK’s register is verified and accurate.
As of July 2020 the Government has not yet published the results of this consultation, but has said it will publish an official response with proposals for the way forward in due course.