The threat of public beneficial ownership registers

Even for jurisdictions that are used to moving goalposts in terms of international regulatory pressure, the passing on May 1 of a cross-party amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill in the House of Commons, effectively ordering British Overseas Territories to establish public registers of beneficial ownership, was unique.

It stood out not only because the U.K. government had in the past fended off similar attempts to amend various bills in both houses of parliament, but also because the issue simply did not seem important enough to warrant the extreme measure of an order in council, a method that disregards the independent democratic mechanisms of the overseas territories.

This time, however, the U.K. government relented, faced with numerous defectors and a possible defeat, had the amendment gone to a vote.

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