By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
The United Kingdom government has granted its Overseas Territories a reprieve and is now allowing the British Virgin Islands to go without implementing the bedevilling public registers of company beneficial ownership until 2023.
This timeline represents a three-year extension to the initial deadline that the UK had outlined in its Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act. The Act was forcing the BVI to implement what are known as public registers of company beneficial ownership. by the year 2020.
UK Minister responsible for Overseas Territories, Lord Tariq Ahmad, gave disclosure about the extension during a recent Foreign Affairs Committee meeting.
He said: “It is our intention that if by 2020 there is no public register, for whatever territory, we will then issue an Order in Council, which will then have a requirement for an operational public register by 2023.”
Lord Ahmad said the 2023 deadline will give the UK time to advance its mission of making public registers become a global standard.
“In terms of whether, from a global perspective, there will be a level playing field by 2023, as I said, that is an objective — an ambition we have set ourselves. But in my personal view, I do not think we will see every territory across the world having public registers by 2023.”
UK parliamentarians displeased with 2023 ‘delay’
According to a January 11 report from British media entity, The Guardian, opposition legislators in British parliament are displeased with the new date.
Chris Bryant, a legislator in the foreign affairs select committee, was quoted in the report stating: “This new timetable is not what parliament thought they were getting when they discussed this. The government has dragged its heels on this issue and this seems yet another unjustified delay. It’s as if the government has become the Department for Procrastination. It means the British Overseas Territories remain Britain’s ‘achilles heel’ when it comes to financial corruption, money laundering, and dodgy money.”
It is said that the UK government delayed its implementation order because of the major backlash from Overseas Territories such as the BVI who threaten legal action, among other things.
What are public registers, what do they mean?
Imposing public registers is an amendment to the UK’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act.
These registers mean the BVI and other Overseas Territories are required to publicise the names of beneficial owners of offshore companies registered in those jurisdictions.
Effectively, beneficial ownership is a legal term whereby specific property rights belong to a person even though the legal title of the property is in another person’s name.
Publicising the names of these beneficial owners could discourage them from doing business with the BVI as it relates to financial services.
The BVI has maintained that it has no problem implementing public registers but has a problem doing so before it becomes a global standard. Premier Dr D Orlando Smith reasons that the BVI would be placed at a disadvantage to other financial services jurisdications.
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