To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the British Virgin Islands government's progress towards implementing a central register of beneficial ownership; and what steps he is taking to ensure that that government publishes a timetable for that implementation by November 2015.
16 October 2015
The international standards on anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing, including transparency of legal persons, are set by the Financial Action Task Force. The British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands are members of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and are subject to mutual evaluations of their AML/CTF regime through this body.
At the December 2014 Joint Ministerial Council, the UK and the Overseas Territories committed to continue to work together in raising international standards to tackle money laundering, tax evasion, illicit finance and corruption, leading by example given the importance of our financial centres to the international financial system. In March, the Minister for the Overseas Territories and I wrote to the Premiers of the BVI and Cayman Islands asking them to set out plans and a timetable for the implementation of central registers of company beneficial ownership, or similarly effective systems, by the November Joint Ministerial Council.
Any system should meet the following three criteria: UK and domestic law enforcement and tax authorities must be able to access company beneficial ownership information without restriction, subject to relevant safeguards; these competent authorities should be able to quickly identify all companies that a particular beneficial owner has a stake in, without needing to submit multiple and repeated requests; and companies or their beneficial owners must not be alerted to the fact that an investigation is under way.
The UK Government continues to engage actively with the BVI and Cayman Islands to emphasize the importance of this agenda and to offer any technical support that might be required.