UK House of Lords rejects public beneficial ownership registers for British Overseas Territories

On 17 January 2018, the House of Lords voted against an amendment to the proposed Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill that sought to create a publicly accessible register of the beneficial ownership of companies registered in six British Overseas Territories1 (“OTs”), by 1 January 2020. The amendment’s stated purpose was to “bring transparency to the financial operations in the six British Overseas Territories that have financial centres”.

This article considers whether the Lords’ vote represents a faltering step in the UK’s commitment to combating the use of anonymous offshore shell companies in facilitating international corruption and money laundering.

The UK’s Leading Role

The UK government has long been a vocal exponent of increased transparency of company ownership as a tool to combat illicit financial activity. At the 2013 Open Government Partnership summit, then Prime Minister David Cameron announced that an open-to-the-public central register of UK company beneficial ownership would be established, labelling transparency

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