Andres Knobel ■ New group to promote beneficial ownership verification pilots around the world
On 2 April 2020 the Tax Justice Network co-organised together with the Financial Transparency Coalition, Transparency International, Global Witness, Global Financial Integrity, Open Ownership, The B Team and the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI), the first exploratory virtual call to form a multi-stakeholder advisory group to promote short term pilots on verifying beneficial ownership information.
Beneficial ownership transparency has entered the mainstream and is rapidly spreading around the globe. Within three months since the publication of the Financial Secrecy Index in January 2020, three more countries have approved beneficial ownership registration laws, including Panama, taking the number of jurisdictions with a beneficial ownership register to 79. However, verification of beneficial ownership information held by registers (to make sure registered data is updated and truthful) remains a challenge.
To promote beneficial ownership verification around the world, as a corollary of our paper on how countries can verify beneficial ownership information, we have co-developed a concept note to set up a multi-stakeholder group to share experiences and best practices among activists, investigative journalists, international organisations, governments and the private sector. The goal of the advisory group would be to promote short-term pilots to verify beneficial ownership information in at least two countries, a developed and a developing one. Lessons learnt would be used to either expand or replicate pilots in other countries.
The first exploratory call to receive feedback on the concept note had a great turnout despite Covid-19. More than 50 people joined the call (some in an “observer status”), including experts from the World Bank, the IMF, the EU Commission, Europol, the UNODC, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Inter-American Center of Tax Administrations (CIAT), the Latin American FATF (GAFILAT), EITI, Open-Government Partnership (OGP), international banks and online payment companies including Citi, HSBC, Bank of Montreal and Paypal, European and Latin American authorities, and technology companies such as Refinitiv. Here’s a summary of the first exploratory call.
Based on the interest and feedback, we will now host three focused calls:
1) The needs of users: To discuss current needs of beneficial ownership users such as banks, investors, law enforcement, prosecutors, investigative journalists, activists, etc.
2) How to select countries for short-term pilots: To discuss the criteria to select countries and their pilots.
3) Mapping current verification strategies: To discuss current strategies, technologies and best practices used to verify information that could be used to verify beneficial ownership information.
Participation at the call (by invitation only) does not necessarily mean being an active member in the advisory group, which is still being developed. At the same time, while stakeholders may have different views, there is a commitment not to undermine the call for public beneficial ownership registries or the fight against illicit financial flows. If you have any questions or comments, please send an email to andres [@] taxjustice [.] net.