A cross-party group of senior MPs could tomorrow (1st May 2018) force the UK government to introduce tougher transparency measures for UK-linked tax havens.
Parliament will tomorrow vote on the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which the Government says will address money-laundering and related abuses overseas. MPs including former Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge, former International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell, and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat, are urging the Government to accept an amendment that would ensure that UK-linked tax havens would have to use public registers of ‘beneficial ownership’. Up to 19 Conservative MPs are understood to be supporting the amendment.
Public registers are an important transparency measure to fight corruption and tax evasion because they allow anyone worldwide – including governments, civil society and journalists – to see who owns or ultimately benefits from a company, making it harder to hide ill-gotten assets. In 2013, the UK became the first G20 country to introduce a public register of beneficial ownership. However, the UK’s public register does not extend to Overseas Territories such as the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bermuda, and the current Government says only that if public registers become the “global standard”, they expect UK Overseas Territories to “follow suit”.
NGOs including ActionAid UK have expressed concern that overseas territories such as the BVI have previously been used to hide money. For example, Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha used the BVI to hide at least $450 million of $2 billion he stole from the Nigerian government while in power.
Commenting, Girish Menon, CEO of ActionAid UK, said:
“UK-linked tax havens continue to be used by criminals and tax evaders to hide their assets. All too often, this holds back most vulnerable women and girls in the world, by robbing them of the public funds needed for decent schools and hospitals. If the UK Government is serious about tackling these abuses, ministers must listen to MPs and agree to boost transparency in British overseas territories.”
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Notes to editors
1. ActionAid is an international charity working with women and girls in 45 countries around the world.
2. More information about ActionAid UK’s work on tax can be found at the ActionAid UK website.