By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
A suggestion has been put forward in the House of Lords that public registers are being imposed on the BVI and other Overseas Territories because of a political grudge between UK parliamentarians.
Conservative politician, Lord Michael Naseby gave that indication during his contribution to the public registers debate in the House of Lords on Monday, May 21. The House of Lords is the upper house of UK parliament.
“Why should men and women in our Overseas Territories suffer because there is an argument between the Whips Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office? I respectfully say … that is unacceptable, totally unacceptable,” Lord Naseby said, adding that he received the information ‘through the grapevine’.
Notably, Britain’s minister responsible for Overseas Territories, Lord Tariq Ahmad, heads the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
House of Lords members defend BVI
Though the House of Lords eventually approved the implementation of public registers, several members such as Lord Naseby and Lord Ahmad came to the defence of the BVI and other Overseas Territories.
During his contribution, Lord Ahmad said the Prime Minister Theresa May-led government will “use its best endeavours diplomatically and with international partners to promote public registers of company beneficial ownership as the global standard by 2023”.
Lord Ahmad further said Crown Dependencies such as the Isle of Man will have to adopt public registers at that time.
Currently, Crown Dependencies are not required to implement the controversial public registers.
Also contributing to the debate, Lord Howard Flight agreed the new policy raises ‘major constitutional issues’ and said it is ‘shameful’ the UK has opted to impose such a rule on Overseas Territories when Britain has what he described as “a far worse record than the Overseas Territories”.
Other members in the House said while they empathise with the Overseas Territoires, the UK must become a ‘leader’ in setting and enforcing global anti-money laundering standards.
While responding last evening to the House of Lords’ move to approve the public registers, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said he welcomed the many positive statements in favour of the BVI from UK parliamentarians in the upper house.
However, Dr Smith said: “Our view on public registers of beneficial ownership has not changed. They are not required by any global standard and we will continue to defend our right not to have a public register until such time that they do become a global standard.”
What do public registers do
The public registers policy is an amendment to the UK’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Launder Bill that forces the BVI and other Overseas Territories to reveal the names of beneficial owners of offshore companies registered in those jurisdictions. Overseas Territories are required to comply by December 2020.
It is feared the policy will drive business from these Overseas Territories towards other less regulated jurisdictions that also provide financial services.
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