EU takes action against secret companies
Under the new legislation full access to company beneficial ownership data will be granted to law enforcement and relevant government bodies in central registers established by EU member states. Partial access will be provided to the public such as investigative journalists and NGOs if they can prove a legitimate interest.
This represents a compromise between those in the EU who demand full transparency (such as the European Parliament, which voted 643-30 in favor of public registries earlier this year) and those who defend some secrecy for beneficial owners (some member states led by Germany). EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also failed to endorse public registries in a response to investigative journalists on Monday. Member states which supported public access included the UK, France, Netherlands and Denmark.
Regrettably, this compromise will entail the creation of a new layer of bureaucracy to manage requests, which could also slow down investigations. For trusts, information will be collected in closed centralised registers available only to government bodies and will not be available to the public.
Transparency International has begun an international campaign to Unmask the Corrupt. The first step is for countries to make companies and trusts much more transparent so they cannot easily be used to illicitly launder stolen wealth. It’s why we ask every country to create a registry of the real beneficial owner of every company operating on its soil and to make that register public.
The EU has taken an important stand against the use of secret companies as vehicles to launder illicit funds by corrupt individuals and companies. Some member states, such as Denmark and the United Kingdom, have said they will go further and make corporate registries completely public. Transparency International urges all European governments to do the same.
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