The Queen is expected to use today’s speech to outline ground-breaking reforms which will force companies to declare who really owns and controls them, in a move strongly welcomed by Global Witness. The campaign group has shown for many years how the use of anonymous companies facilitates a host of crimes including corruption, tax-evasion and money-laundering. Most recently, Global Witness worked with Ukrainian organisations to demonstrate how Viktor Yanukovych's presidential palace compound was part owned by an anonymous British company.
“Anonymous companies lie at the heart of some of the worst problems of our time. Corrupt politicians, tax evaders, terrorists, drug gangs, and warlords all use them to cover their tracks. If we can change this, we will crack open solutions to many other problems. The UK should be applauded for leading from the front on this issue, and we hope to see the US, the EU and Britain’s Crown Dependencies to follow suit,” said Global Witness co-founder Charmian Gooch.
The Queen’s announcement comes on the back of pledges from UK Prime Minister David Cameron during his chairing of the G8 in June 2013. At that time, Mr Cameron promised to 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 UK government has since announced that this register will be open to the public, rather than just 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.
In March 2014, Global Witness co-founder and 2014 TED Prize winner Charmian Gooch launched a global campaign to end anonymous company ownership.
Contact: Oliver Courtney, [email protected], +44 (0)7912 517147.