David Cameron has written to the UK’s tax havens about the importance of them knowing and revealing more about who really owns the hundreds of thousands of companies they host,
The move has been welcomed by Christian Aid and other tax-justice supporting development groups. But campaigners warn that words must be translated into action.
"We are extremely pleased to see the Prime Minister’s letter to the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, in which he makes it crystal clear that he wants them introduce public registers of the real owners of the vast number of companies on their shores," said Barry Johnston, Christian Aid’s Senior UK Political Advisor.
"Mr Cameron has already... [committed] the UK to introduce its own public register of the millions of people who own companies in this country. He has since encouraged fellow European Union member countries to follow suit and today he is absolutely right to urge the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories to do the same.
"If these territories want to shake off the label of ‘tax haven’, then now is the time for them to do it," he said.
The Crown Dependencies are Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man while the Overseas Territories include the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Anguilla and the Turks & Caicos.
Christian Aid research has shown that the islands play a hugely important role in global foreign direct investment, with a very high proportion of all investment in developing countries being routed through them.
Shedding light on the beneficial ownership of companies in UK tax havens will help poor as well as rich countries to bring to justice some of the criminals who use secretly-owned companies to commit crimes including tax evasion, corruption and money laundering, safe in the knowledge it will be hard or impossible to prove their links to the companies concerned.
Mr Cameron’s letter comes at a time when some of the UK tax havens are doing, or have recently done, public consultations on whether to introduce central – and potentially public - registers of beneficial owners. The islands concerned include the Caymans, British Virgin Islands and Jersey.
* Invested Interests - the Christian Aid Tax Report (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/Invested-Interests-Christian-Aid-t...