In the latest development in the drive for greater financial transparency, the UK Parliament, as part of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, has decided to require British overseas territories, including Cayman Islands, BVI and Bermuda, to develop public registers of the owners of companies formed there, by the end of 2020. At present four overseas territories have registers of beneficial ownership which can be accessed by British law enforcement agencies. The ruling will not apply to Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, although it is thought likely that pressure will be brought on those jurisdictions to adopt the same standards.

This requirement is designed to end the perceived lack of corporate transparency considered a factor in assisting corruption and money laundering activities.

The proposed changes had been criticised in the overseas territories before the decision, being described by some as unconstitutional. There has also been concern over potential high implementation costs, in particular with some Caribbean jurisdictions still recovering from the impact of natural disasters in 2017 and the possible negative impact the changes will have on the key financial services sector.

The move is being seen as a significant win for campaigners for greater financial transparency. Their hope now is that other jurisdictions with a reputation for secrecy will introduce similar measures.

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