UK delegation promotes beneficial ownership registry

A U.K government delegation paid a visit to the Cayman Islands last week for purposes of promoting the virtues of a public central register owners of companies and other entities.

The UK Minister for financial services, Wayne Panton , confirmed that a delegation from the U.K , which comprised representatives of the Treasury, Customs, the Metropolitan Police and a government advisory group , spent 3 days in Cayman where they had meetings with the ministry, members of the private sector, the office of the attorney general, the anti-money laundering unit and the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority.

The net result was that they gained a much better understanding of the issues that are relevant to Cayman and the concerns that the UK government currently has. Mr. Panton issued a confirmation that the delegation came with a clear agenda of promoting the vision of the British Prime Minister on the importance of a centralized register.

Late last year, the British Prime Minister issued an announcement of plans of creating a publicly accessible central registry of information on beneficial ownership in the U.K. and advocated other countries to follow the same. However, the  Overseas Territories Minister during a visit to the Cayman Islands late last year said that such a move would most definitely be a local decision.

In June, in the Queen’s speech, it was announced that the U.K government will bring forward legislation to introduce a central public register of the beneficial ownership data.

In March, the European Parliament passed a recommendation from two of its committees to enforce legislation that would establish public registers listing online the beneficial owners of all EU companies and trusts. The recommendations surpass the proposals of the EU Commission and the U.K government through the inclusion of beneficial owners of trusts.

Consequently, details of the legislation , which is set to be implemented as part of a reform of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, still have to be sorted out with the EU Commission and the Council of Ministers.

In the Cayman Islands, the U.K proposal of making public the beneficial owners of Cayman entities has been rejected by the Chamber of Commerce and the Law Society, with legitimate privacy rights and lack of universal application being cited as the main hurdles.

The Law Society noted in a comprehensive analysis of the issue that Cayman already complies with international tax and financing information reporting standards.

UK Minister for Financial Services highlighted the commitment of Cayman Islands to comply with international standards as long as there exists a “level playing field.” However, as of now there has been no international consensus on the issue.

Despite the meetings held last month enabling the U.K government to have a better understanding of Cayman’s position “face to face” as opposed to simply studying Cayman Law’s provisions, Mr. Panton doubted it would have any alterations on the Agenda. He also stated that they have not gone away with the feeling the Cayman Islands is Okay  and that they will push the agenda.

He said that, stonewalling the U.K would not provide any positive results for the Cayman Islands, and every opportunity to enhance engagement and the understanding levels of the U.K government would be very useful.