OTs Expected To Have Public Registers By 2023

December 20, 2018 | 4 Comments

The United Kingdom “will prepare draft legislation by the end of 2020, with all Overseas Territories expected to have fully functioning public registers by the end of 2023.”

This was stated by Minister of State Sir Alan Duncan in response to a question from Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who was one of the key MPs in bringing forth the amendment in British Parliament.

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According to the Hansard of yesterday’s session of British Parliament, Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs “what discussions representatives of his Department had at the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council on 4-5 December 2018 on the establishment of public beneficial ownership registers in the Overseas Territories.”

In response, the Minister of State Sir Alan Duncan said, “Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Overseas Territories, and Mr John Penrose MP, the Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Champion discussed the Government’s approach to taking forward section 51 of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act with Overseas Territories’ leaders.

“The UK will prepare draft legislation by the end of 2020, with all OTs expected to have fully functioning public registers by the end of 2023.

“The UK will push for action at the highest levels with our partners around the world to make public registers of company beneficial ownership the global norm by 2023.

“Gibraltar has committed to have in place a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership for legal entities in line with the EU 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive by January 2020.”

Earlier this year, the British Parliament used their colonial power to pass legislation which seeks to allow them to order the Overseas Territories, including Bermuda, to implement public registers.

A beneficial ownership register is a database of information on business owners, and while the vast majority of nations worldwide do not make theirs public, the UK does, with their register going public in 2016.

The Bermuda’s Government’s position over the years has been that they maintain registers, provide information to official entities at request and will make the registers public when it becomes world standard.

In response to the British Parliament passing legislation for the territories, Premier David Burt and other Overseas Territories leaders accused of the UK of colonialism, with the islands’ leaders calling it an “affront,” an “unacceptable act of modern colonialism,” and an action that would “overturn democracy in the relevant territory.”

The matter is agreed upon by both parties, with Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs Scott Pearman previously saying, “Our Register of Beneficial Ownership dates back to the 1940s. The UK only recently implemented theirs. So why is Britain telling Bermuda what to do on beneficial ownership?

“Premier Burt, to his credit, has taken a clear stance on this issue. He told the House of Assembly: ‘There will be no public Register of Beneficial Ownership in Bermuda until this Honourable House, elected by the people of Bermuda, votes to implement one.’

“Like other Premiers before him, from all parties, Premier Burt rightly asserts that the choice is one for our House of Assembly,” Mr Pearman said. “The Parliament of Britain, a country steeped in history, should respect historical convention and let Bermuda’s Parliament decide.”

In his submission to the UK Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year, former Finance Minister Bob Richards, who was speaking in his personal capacity, said, “Public Beneficial Ownership Registers are not a global standard. I stated many times as Minister that, if public Beneficial Ownership Registers become a global standard, we will comply.

Mr Richards also said that business will be lost to other offshore financial centres, “many of whom have very low compliance, anti-money laundering and transparency standards,” hence there would be a “resultant net deterioration in global transparency standards.”

The matter was also discussed during the UK Foreign Affairs Committee hearing this week, with Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN Lord Ahmad answering questions, explaining that the UK will issue an Order in Council, which is effectively a direct order from the UK, to any Territories that do not have public registers by 2020, with the “requirement for an operational public register by 2023.”

90-minute video of this week’s UK Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Overseas Territories

Speaking on Tuesday, Lord Ahmad said, “In terms of the legislation, the obligation is on Her Majesty’s Government to produce an Order in Council, if a territory does not have a public register by 2020.

“It is our intention—during the Joint Ministerial Council we made it very clear—to work with the territories themselves. It is our intention that if by 2020 there is no public register, for whatever territory, we will then issue an Order in Council, which will then have a requirement for an operational public register by 2023.

“I would also add that there are differences with constitutions: for example, in Bermuda, there is a legal issue, whereby the Order in Council may well have to be instituted by the territory itself. There are different constitutional arrangements as well, but the obligation is on the Government to produce the Order in Council.

“In terms of whether, from a global perspective, there will be a level playing field by 2023, as I said, that is an objective—an ambition we have set ourselves—but in my personal view, I do not think we will see every territory across the world having public registers by 2023.”

Also speaking during Tuesday’s hearing was Ben Merrick, the Director of Overseas Territories in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who explained that none of the Territories have made their registers public yet, and the UK “will be working through technical and legislative means to help them, in terms of getting those registers.

When asked to expand on technical means, Mr Merrick said, “For example, that includes the technology in terms of public registers. The UK has already been through the process of getting our own register available, so it is about ensuring that the information is centrally held and publicly available.”

According to Bloomberg, the EU — which recently required islands including Bermuda to pass Economic Substance legislation to avoid being placed in a blacklist – is “also negotiating new rules to require countries or independent territories to apply transparency standards to publish the beneficial owners of companies.”

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Comments (4)

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  1. Johnny B says:

    You FIRST!

  2. Real Deal says:

    they play with us i refuse to be a toy

  3. rodney smith says:

    Done deal . The Fat lady just rolled over on us and we can’t breathe .The E.U. and London got everything they wanted . Our Parliament just voted unanimously to abide by these new set of rules . All that tough talk amounted nothing .Mother May I said to jump , and we replied by saying , ” How High . “

  4. Mumbojumbo says:

    Your a colony basket and you know it too…so there…na na …na na na!
    And a ghoul.

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