Tory Malcolm Rifkind and Labour’s Des Browne

Defence big hitters on tax haven secrecy

Conservative Malcolm Rifkind and Labour’s Des Browne join two Generals as signatories of letter

To: Editor of the Times

11th May 2016

Dear Sir,

The Home Secretary says money laundering through UK institutions poses a direct and immediate threat to our domestic security. We welcome the efforts that the government is making to address that threat but believe it must go further by requiring UK tax havens to meet the standards of transparency we have set ourselves here. 

The use of sham companies to hide illegal arms deals is not just the stuff of fiction, like the recent BBC Night Manager series, but frightening reality. With the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens apparently reluctant to give up selling secrecy, and allegations of links between North Korea’s main arms dealer and an anonymous BVI based company, we can’t just sit back and wait for these places to change their ways. Imposing legal changes on our Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories is not unprecedented. It was used for example to abolish the death penalty in the Caribbean Territories in 1991. We need to use those powers again.

A public register of the ultimate owners of companies registered in our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies will facilitate proper oversight of the arms trade. Making this change is the safe thing to do for the British public and the right thing to do as a responsible member of the global security community. As hosts to a major corruption summit tomorrow in London, now is the time for the government to act.


  • General (Lord)  Richard Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL , Chief of the General Staff 2006-09
  • General (Lord) David John Ramsbotham GCB CBE- Commander UK Field Army 1987-90
  • The Right Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Defence Secretary 1992-95, Foreign Secretary 1995-97 
  • The Right Hon Lord Des Browne, Defence Secretary 2006-08 and Vice Chairman of the NTI (Nuclear Threat Initiative
A shortened version of this letter appeared in the Times on 11/5/16. Sir Malcolm Rifkind added his signature as a late signatory.