Press Release / June 14, 2013

Breakthrough commitment from UK to roll back corporate secrecy; the G8 and offshore havens should follow suit

For immediate release:  14 June 2013 

An unprecedented move by the UK to end secret company ownership could prevent corruption and crime and significantly boost the development prospects of poor countries and cut financial crime, Global Witness said today. 

Ahead of next week’s G8 summit in Northern Ireland the UK has announced it will collect information on the ultimate or ‘beneficial’ owners and controllers of all companies and make it available to tax inspectors and law enforcement. The government will also consult on whether to make this information available to the public. 

Gavin Hayman, Director of Campaigns at Global Witness said: “Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for corporate secrecy. If the UK can get its G8 partners and its own tax havens to have registries and to make them public too, then this move could be transformational in addressing one of the murkiest parts of the world's economy. Corrupt politicians, tax evaders, terrorists and drug traffickers all use shell companies to move dirty money and hide their identities.” 

“The UK should be congratulated for showing strong leadership on this issue and putting it at the top of the G8 agenda. Transparency around who really owns and controls companies is central to tackling global poverty and financial crime.” 

“It’s very significant that the UK is looking at making this information public. This is the first time that any government has proposed such a move. Not only would this facilitate more effective due diligence for financial institutions, it would allow the many eyes of journalists, citizens and civil society to hold companies and their real owners to account. Analysis clearly shows that the benefits significantly outweigh the costs.” 

“If the UK ends up having a private registry of beneficial ownership, it is key that it is configured in such a way that tax inspectors and police from developing countries – whose citizens suffer most from corruption and tax evasion – are able to access the information.” 

/ Ends 

Contact: In London, Rosie Sharpe on +44 20 7492 5854, +44 7850 733 681, [email protected] or Robert Palmer on +44 20 7492 5860, +44 7545 645 406, [email protected] or Gavin Hayman on +44 7843 058 756. In Washington DC, Stefanie Ostfeld on +1 202 621 6674, +1 202 577 5858, [email protected]. 

Rosie Sharpe and Gavin Hayman will be at the Open for Growth event on trade, tax and transparency tomorrow in London. Gavin Hayman will be at the summit’s media venue in Enniskillen.


To read more about why hidden company ownership is a major barrier in the fight against poverty and what to do about it, read Global Witness’ briefing Anonymous Companies:


More on the G8 - click here.