Beneficial ownership registry approved

The Legislative Assembly passed three bills Monday that will enable the creation of a searchable, corporate ownership registry, moving the Cayman Islands closer to compliance with a U.K. agreement established in April.

Ahead of Wednesday’s trip to London, Premier Alden McLaughlin requested the House move to committee to deliberate the proposed Companies Amendment No. 2 Bill, Companies Management Amendment No. 2 Bill 2016, and the Limited Liabilities Companies Amendment Bill 2016.

Together the bills outline definitions of beneficial ownership and set forth creation of a registry that would be accessible by law enforcement and tax authorities. The registry, requested of all U.K. Overseas Territories, would aim to bolster financial crime investigations and target corruption.

Premier McLaughlin said the bills’ passage will allow him to inform U.K. authorities that the islands are on track to meet a June deadline on the issue. He is scheduled to meet with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on Monday.

The Legislative Assembly will adjourn until Mr. McLaughlin’s return on March 8.

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“One of the things we wish to do on that trip is to brief the minister and FCO personnel about where we have reached in terms of our preparation to deal with the deadline with respect to the beneficial ownership issue,” he said Monday.

He added that creation of the law enforcement registry will allow government to avoid the creation of a public database.

Following committee deliberations, Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton read through a long list of amendments to the bills, primarily regarding definitions in the legislation.

North Side member Ezzard Miller asked if the extensive Companies Bill amendments created a constitutional issue. The Cayman Islands Constitution requires bills to be published at least 21 days before they are introduced, except in cases of emergency.

Attorney General Samuel Bulgin said he did not believe the amendments were an issue.

“I’m not sure it affects the constitutionality. It is true that it is a significant set of amendments, but I think they’re more for clarity than anything else, so I’m not so sure it affects the substance of the underlined premise of the bill itself,” Mr. Bulgin said.

Service providers in the Cayman Islands currently collect beneficial ownership data, but until now have not been required to report to a central registry. This information is made accessible through bilateral agreements and multilateral treaties.

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