Global Witness welcomes UK’s historic rollback of corporate secrecy

31 October 2013, Global Witness.

This post was originally published on the Global Witness website.

David Cameron will pledge today to make public the names of who actually owns and controls British companies, in a move applauded by Global Witness which has been campaigning on this issue for many years. This will make it much harder for criminals to hide their identity behind sham UK shell companies, and for the corrupt to steal billions of dollars from developing countries.

“Global Witness’ investigations have shown how anonymous shell companies are the global getaway cars for crime, corruption and tax evasion. Full credit should go to the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary for acting to take away the keys,” said Gavin Hayman, director of campaigns at Global Witness.

At the G8 in June, the UK said it would create a central database of the ultimate owners of UK companies, rather than just the legal ownership information currently held by Companies House. Following a consultation, the Prime Minister has now announced that this register will be open to members of the public, rather than just restricted to law enforcement.

It is crucial that information on the real, beneficial owners of companies is out in the open. It will allow citizens to hold companies to account, companies to know who they are doing business with, and law enforcement from around the world to chase down criminals who have abused UK companies. This move will be cheap for the majority of businesses who do not have complicated ownership structures.

“Life is about to get much more difficult for corrupt politicians, arms traders, drug traffickers and tax evaders. Others countries, including the British tax havens, the EU and the US, now need to follow the UK’s leadership and commit to publishing information on who ultimately owns companies,” added Hayman.