Earlier this week the UK parliament passed proposals for a fully public register of beneficial ownership of companies to be imposed on the British Overseas Territories, which include islands such as Bermuda, Cayman and the British Virgin Islands.
The move, which will reveal the true ownership of assets held by companies registered in those jurisdictions, is viewed as a threat to the offshore finance industries in many of the territories because wealthy clients often value strict confidentiality arrangements.
Another amendment for similar proposals to apply to the Crown Dependencies – Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – was withdrawn at the last minute following lobbying by the governments of the three islands.
In a statement Jersey Finance say that the withdrawal of the amendment ‘underlines the contention that the UK Parliament cannot and should not seek to legislate for the Crown Dependencies’.
Chief executive Geoff Cook added that the Island is ‘aligned with the UK’ in combating financial crime and the outcome in Westminster this week was ‘sensible and pragmatic’.
‘The debate has given Jersey another opportunity to clarify its approach to managing and sharing beneficial ownership information,’ he said.
‘Information on our central register, which is tried and tested for almost three decades, is available to the people who need that vital information and we are constantly working with law enforcement agencies and other relevant authorities to ensure they have everything they need.’
He added: ‘Through our ongoing alignment with and adoption of all international standards, we are confident in our ability to fight financial crime while protecting the compliant confidentiality of our investors.
‘We’re proud to have a rigorous checking process, and that means we’re one of the few jurisdictions that can have absolute certainty about its business practices, and who it works with – now, and in the future. We will continue to work closely with the UK and international regulatory bodies to ensure that we remain a first class-transparent centre of excellence.’
The decision to impose a public register on the British Overseas Territories, which will be required by 2020, has been heavily criticised by the governments of Cayman, which is considering a legal challenge, and Bermuda, which has said the move is unconstitutional.
Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, the leader of the Tory rebels who sided with Labour on the amendment, said, however, that it would be a ‘waste of money’ for the British Overseas Territories to challenge the move through the courts.