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Call for UK clampdown on territories

An influential UK newspaper has called for Britain to force its Overseas Territories to create a public register of owners of companies.

Chris Blackhurst, the group content director of a four-newspaper stable, writing in the London Evening Standard, said: “Only then, once we have put our own house in order, can we demand the same of the other, non-British-linked tax havens, among them Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Panama.”

He was writing after last week's meeting of the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (OTJMC) in London, attended by Michael Dunkley, the Premier, and the leaders of other UK territories like the British Virgin Islands, the Caymans and Anguilla.

And Mr Blackhurst, a former editor of the prestigious Independent newspaper, said: “As some of the most secretive places on earth they take some beating.

“Anguilla, Bermuda, BVI, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos are in the first rank of offshore tax havens.” Mr Blackhurst added: “Doubtless, the Overseas Territories will insist the services they provide are all above board and their clientele are conducting legimate business.”

And he said that, if Bermuda and other offshore jurisdictions were above board, there was no need for secrecy.

Mr Blackhurst added that the Island had been included on an EU blacklist of uncooperative jurisdictions in June — although both Poland and the Baltic republic of Latvia in July removed Bermuda from their submissions to the European Commission.

The move meant Bermuda dropped below the ten-nation threshold for inclusion on the list, which led Finance Minister Bob Richards to demand the Island be removed from the list immediately, rather than wait for an expected revision towards the end of the year.

Mr Blackhurst said: “Successive UK governments have repeatedly moved against tax dodging, promising they will crack this perennial problem.

“So far, they've got absolutely nowhere.”

Mr Dunkley said after the London meeting: “Bermuda has had for over 70 years a world-leading, Government-held central register of beneficial ownership that long predates those in most developed countries, including the UK, and has at every opportunity shared the information requested by legitimate international authorities, within 24 hours.

“Those who demand Bermuda makes its register public are attempting to solve a problem that does not exist, and demonstrate a lack of respect towards the transparency and regulatory standards Bermuda has upheld, arguably unsurpassed, for many decades.

“Bermuda plays a unique and essential role in the global economy, providing re-insurance services to markets around the world and so reducing risk and the cost of capital. Our leading re-insurance industry has helped to protect the world's economies from the severe financial implications of catastrophes like 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy.”

Call for action: Chris Blackhurst, of the London Evening Standard, believes the UK should force its territories to have public ownership registers

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Published December 07, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 07, 2015 at 1:11 am)

Call for UK clampdown on territories

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