The UK just made it harder for the corrupt to hide their wealth offshore

The UK just made it harder for the corrupt to hide their wealth offshore

From the  scandal  to the Panama and Paradise Papers, time and again we’ve seen how offshore territories - often known as secrecy jurisdictions or tax havens - play a key role in facilitating the illicit flow of money across borders.

Some of the most notorious of these are among Britain’s Overseas Territories.

In fact, if counted together, the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies would top the , given the staggering scale of their undisclosed financial activities.

But, fortunately, this could soon change.

On 1 May 2018, the  of requiring any British Overseas Territory that has not already done so to introduce public registers that reveal the individuals behind companies based there by the end of 2020.

This is a major victory in the fight against cross-border corruption.

Why does it matter?

In 2015, research by Transparency International UK (TI-UK) found that shell companies registered in secrecy jurisdictions were involved in more than three quarters of corruption cases involving property that were investigated by London’s Metropolitan Police. Of these companies, nearly 80 per cent were registered in the UK’s Overseas Territories, like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, or in Crown dependencies, like the Isle of Man or Channel Islands.  

Last year, TI-UK identified £4.4 billion worth of property in the UK bought with suspicious wealth. Of the companies used for these transactions, nearly half are based in the British Virgin Islands.

And just last week, a  conducted together with TI-UK and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published details of a Ukrainian crime gang that purchased eight luxury properties in London using companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.

More progress needed

Even while celebrating this week’s ruling in the UK, it is important to note that the Crown dependencies are not yet affected.

More widely, our report published in April looked into precisely this problem of opaque beneficial ownership systems, focusing on how far G20 countries in particular have gone in removing the anonymity that allows criminals and the corrupt to hide their identity behind shell companies. The world’s leading economies still have a lot of work to do to live up to their own principles. None apart from the UK have public registries of beneficial ownership for companies operating within their borders.

The UK’s tough new stance on offshore financial secrecy should inspire others to follow suit

Image: Creative Commons, Unsplash, Anders Wideskott  

For any press enquiries please contact [email protected]

Solicitude

Support Transparency International

Strengthening rule of law along the cocaine route

Transparency International has teamed up with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL, to implement the CRIMJUST Project, funded by the European Union. The project aims to strengthen criminal investigation and criminal justice cooperation along the cocaine route in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa.

Political asylum for ex-presidents: an easy way to impunity?

This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration. Yet while we celebrate the universality of human rights, at times powerful individuals try to abuse the principles that underpin the international human rights framework. Two recent cases of two ex-presidents who have applied for political asylum to evade justice, and two countries who handled these requests in very different ways, highlight some of these abuses.

International Anti-Corruption Day 2018: The power of people’s pressure

Across the world, Transparency International chapters work hard to help the public become involved and engaged in the fight against corruption.

La Justicia española debe investigar el lavado de imagen de Azerbaiyán en Europa

Tres políticos españoles —Pedro Agramunt, Agustín Conde Bajén y Jordi Xuclá— se encuentran entre los delegados ante la Asamblea Parlamentaria del Consejo de Europa (APCE) sobre los que pesan sospechas de haberse beneficiado con la maniobra del “Laundromat”.

Clean up Spain – Justice for Azerbaijan’s reputation laundering in Europe

In Azerbaijan, critical voices are routinely suppressed. Meanwhile in Europe, politicians suspected of helping whitewash Azerbaijan’s record on human rights enjoy impunity. Join our campaign to urge authorities in Spain to investigate.

Everything you need to know about the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference (#18IACC)

The #18IACC will take place from 22-24 October in Copenhagen, Denmark under the theme Together for Development, Peace and Security: Now is the Time to Act. Get the latest info and updates here!

Risky business: Europe’s golden visa programmes

Are EU Member States accepting too much risk in their investor migration schemes?

Why rather

Follow us on Why rather