14/05/24

UK: Campaigners demand action on money laundering as Overseas Territories meet

As published on: ca.news.yahoo.com, Tuesday 14 May, 2024. 

Anti-corruption campaigners have called for the Government to do more to tackle financial crime in the UK’s Overseas Territories ahead of a key meeting this week.

Senior representatives from Britain’s Overseas Territories are due to meet in London this week for an annual meeting with ministers, with anti-money laundering policies expected to be on the agenda.

Ahead of the meeting, campaigners including the UK Anti-Corruption Coalition (UKACC) have called for the UK Government to push the Overseas Territories to set up registers showing the real owners of companies by the end of the year.

Westminster legislated for the introduction of public registers of beneficial ownership – seen as a key tool in the fight against corruption – in 2018 and the Overseas Territories committed to introducing them in 2020, but little progress has been made since.

Dame Margaret Hodge, chair of Parliament’s all-party group on anti-corruption and responsible tax, said: “Our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies must bring an end to the decades of secrecy which have allowed wealthy oligarchs, criminal gangs, drug smugglers and human traffickers to hide and launder their dirty money.

“This means they must stand by their commitments to establish public registers of beneficial ownership by the end of this year.

“Members of Parliament legislated on this nearly five years ago, so these tax havens must either respect the will of Parliament, or Government must step in and force them to honour their promises.”

The UKACC published a poll of more than 6,000 people on Monday showing 72% of people agreed that the UK Government should take more responsibility for working with Overseas Territories to tackle money laundering and tax evasion.

Analysis by Transparency International has linked numerous companies registered in British Overseas Territories such as the British Virgin Islands to corruption cases, saying they have “aided gross abuses of entrusted power for private gain around the world”.

Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK, said: “It’s hard to ignore the scale of economic crime exploiting some of Britain’s offshore financial centres, so progress by the Overseas Territories toward delivering on their commitment to introduce transparent company ownership registers is to be welcomed.

“However, it appears that most of these territories are far from being on track to meet the deadline for implementing these registers by the end of this year.

“As representatives from the Overseas Territories meet with the UK Government this week, all in attendance should be clear that stamping out economic crime is in the interests of the whole British family – and that this will mean the Overseas Territories fully delivering on the commitments they have made.”

Tags

UK Overseas Territories AML Money Laundering

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