John Christensen ■ UK secrecy jurisdictions are still helping criminals the world over

Spot the common feature: Clue - it's the head of state

Spot the common feature: Clue – it’s the Head of State

30 November 2015

Despite real progress, UK secrecy jurisdictions are still helping criminals the world over, warns report.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to lead the global fight against corruption. But, a new assessment released today warns that the UK cannot credibly claim that it has made significant improvements with regard to financial secrecy when jurisdictions it has control over – the Overseas Territories – remain some of the most notorious purveyors of financial secrecy.

The report, by Christian Aid, Global Witness, the Tax Justice Network and Transparency International UK, comes as leaders of the secrecy jurisdictions – the UK’s Overseas Territories – gather in London for their annual meeting with the UK government. The seven Territories include the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda and all are ultimately UK-controlled.

The UK’s Corruption Problem considers two aspects of financial secrecy in the Overseas Territories:

The extent to which bank and other financial accounts can still be hidden from other jurisdictions’ tax authorities. All of the Overseas Territories have made progress over the last two years by agreeing to automatically exchange bank account data with other countries’ tax authorities. No data has yet been exchanged, and the system needs extending such that developing countries can benefit but, nonetheless, progress has been made.

The extent to which tax evaders, the corrupt and other criminals can still hide behind anonymous companies. Montserrat has become the first of the Overseas Territories to promise to put the names of the people who own and control companies – the so-called beneficial owners – into the public domain.

Gibraltar, by virtue of being a member of the EU, will also have to make the names of beneficial owners available to anyone who can demonstrate a legitimate interest in knowing. Both Gibraltar and Montserrat should make this data fully public, and the other Territories should do the same.

Rosie Sharpe, Global Witness said: “The UK’s Overseas Territories remain some of the world’s most notorious purveyors of financial services to tax evaders, the corrupt and the downright dangerous. A World Bank study found that the most popular places that the corrupt use to incorporate a company are the UK’s Overseas Territories.”

Joseph Stead, Christian Aid said: “With David Cameron planning to host an anti-corruption summit in 2016, now is the time to change things and demonstrate that the UK is as committed to stamping out corruption in its backyard as it is elsewhere in the world.”

Alex Cobham, Tax Justice Network said: “For all the talk about beneficial ownership transparency (and there has been a lot), there has not yet been enough action.”

Read the report here.

Read the FT’s article on the report here

Read the public letter to Prime Minister David Cameron here

Read TJN’s request to Her Majesty the Queen of England (and Head of States of the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories) to push her Prime Minister to take action here

For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact:

Rachel Baird at Christian Aid on +44 207 523 2446 or [email protected] or +44 7850 242 950
Rosie Sharpe at Global Witness on +45 28 55 83 08, [email protected] or Oliver Courtney at Global Witness on +44 20 7492 5853, +44 7912 517 147, [email protected]
Alex Cobham at Tax Justice Network on +44 7982 236 863 or [email protected]
Dominic Kavakeb at Transparency International UK on +44 20 3096 7695, +44 79 6456 0340


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