3 November 2016 - In response to a summit held by the UK Foreign Office and its Overseas Territories this week, charities including Christian Aid, Action Aid and Global Witness expressed disappointment that despite pressure from MPs and following the Panama Papers scandal, the UK’s tax havens remain stubbornly resistant to following the lead on transparency set by the UK itself.
Christian Aid’s Political Adviser Simon Kirkland said, “This summit was the first time that the UK Government has gathered the leaders of its Overseas Territories the Panama Papers scandal, where the UK-governed British Virgin Islands was the most named tax haven.
“At a debate in Parliament last week on the Criminal Finances Bill a wide range of MPs called on the Government to set a timeline by when company ownership in the UK’s tax havens would be made public.
“It is therefore disappointing that the summit made no new progress on setting a timeline for when the Overseas Territories’ beneficial ownership registers will be made public. The communique from the summit claims that the Overseas Territories are committed to transparency.
"However in reality this doesn’t appear to be the case. With the exception of Monserrat, the Overseas Territories are still refusing to make their registers of beneficial ownership public despite the Government asking them to for more than three years.
“The UK led the world in introducing a public register of beneficial ownership and around twelve countries have now committed to follow suit, including Kenya, Nigeria and Afghanistan.
"We acknowledge that some moves have been made in terms of promises to create central registers and share some information with other countries' law enforcement. But we call on the Government to increase its efforts to ensure that its territories simply follow the lead of the twelve countries that have committed to the same transparency standards as the UK.
“Given that the UK, with its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies is the largest secretive tax jurisdiction in the world, we have a special responsibility to ensure that UK territories introduce real transparency as soon as possible.”
The summit comes as the Government is legislating to tackle corruption through its Criminal Finances Bill, but makes no mention of its territories in the legislation. A broad range of Parliamentarians are calling for the Government to commit to a timeline for transparency in its Overseas Territories as part of this legislation.
Many have said that the Government cannot claim to be serious about tackling corruption without addressing this issue in the bill.
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Notes to editors:
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