The United Kingdom government has said it will issue Orders in Council at the end of the year for all British Overseas Territories to implement beneficial ownership registries by 2023.
The Orders in Council were part of contentious amendments to the UK Sanctions and Money Laundering Act in 2018 that triggered threats of legal action from Overseas Territories’ and calls for constitutional changes.
Since then Cayman, together with seven other OTs, have said they will establish publicly accessible registers of company beneficial ownership.
Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development Minister Baroness Elizabeth Sugg, through a written statement Wednesday, welcomed the OTs commitment to transparency and encouraged other territories to follow suit.
“In line with the Sanctions and Money Laundering Act 2018 the Government will prepare a draft Order in Council before the end of 2020, which will be published. We hope that the British Virgin Islands will also commit to publicly accessible registers of company beneficial ownership without delay,” Sugg said in the statement.
The issue of public beneficial ownership registries has been a longstanding issue between the territories and the UK.
When amendments to the Sanctions and Money Laundering Act were passed in 2018 imposing the registries there was widespread objection among OTs. It prompted Cayman to seek constitution changes that would require the UK to consult with the Premier on any proposed legislation or Orders in Council that will directly impact the Cayman Islands.
Those changes were agreed to by the UK.
Sugg, in addressing the deadline for implementation of the registries, said, the UK government considers the end of 2023 “a reasonable deadline for the introduction of such registers.”
“Meeting this date will be a considerable ask for many Overseas Territories, given their limited resources; especially those Overseas Territories that do not currently have a company beneficial ownership register. It will involve significant legislative and operational changes,” she said.
Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman, the Falkland Islands, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands and St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, and the Turks and Caicos Islands have all committed to registries.
Sugg said the eight territories “have all demonstrated good progress and political leadership as part of the global effort to increase transparency in financial services and tackle illicit finance.”
Cayman’s government, statement on Wednesday, welcomed the minister’s remarks.
It said the UK’s 2023 deadline for the registers “aligns with its campaign to advance publicly accessible company beneficial ownership registers as a global norm, as it believes that action on beneficial ownership information in the OTs should be complemented by improved public access to beneficial ownership information internationally.”
Government said Cayman has significantly strengthened and enhanced its beneficial ownership regime through the introduction of a more advanced technology platform for managing beneficial ownership information held centrally, enhanced the powers of the beneficial ownership Competent Authority to verify beneficial ownership information, request additional information, and introduce penalties for non-compliance.
“An administrative fines regime has been introduced with a breach in beneficial ownership obligations incurring a $5,000 fine, with a further $1,000 penalty every month until the issue is rectified. Where there is non-payment for 90 days, the BO Registrar has powers to strike the company off the register,” the government statement added.