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Register decision in response to ‘new standards’

The Bermuda Government responded to the risk of “new standards” in moving to make its beneficial ownership register public by 2023.

Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, said the Government “did not wait for a crisis to appear before altering course” on the matter.

And he said he had support from the financial-services sector before making the move.

Mr Dickinson told the House of Assembly that the island's policy on beneficial ownership had changed over the years in response to external threats.

The Government announced last week it would put forward legislation making the register accessible to the public on an automatic basis by January 2023.

Mr Dickinson said the island was keen to work with the European Union, which now requires its member states to have public registers on beneficial ownership.

He said the Government had agreed to make the commitment in line with other British Overseas Territories.

Dominic Raab, Britain's Foreign Secretary, said last week that Bermuda is one of eight OTs — all except the British Virgin Islands — to commit to a public register, in what he described as a major step forward for transparency.

Mr Dickinson added: “We are here because this is where we need to be as a top-tier, high quality jurisdiction, ever mindful of the changing landscape.

“We must now start the work necessary to create the legislative, institutional and operational framework that is sufficiently robust, appropriate and contains all the necessary checks and balances.

“Accordingly, in the coming weeks, the ministry will meet with our colleagues at the Bermuda Monetary Authority and the Registrar of Companies as we move forward with this important initiative.

“We are aware that this issue has various levels of complexity and will have further consultation with our industry partners in order to set the framework for public access to beneficial ownership for companies.”

Finance ministry officials had met with representatives of the financial-services industry on November 6 to talk about the latest developments on the beneficial ownership issue, Mr Dickinson said.

He added: “Follow-up discussions were held in April of this year and I can advise that the general consensus, of the majority of stakeholders, was that Government should make an appropriate commitment in line with the other jurisdictions.”

The Bermuda Government has consistently resisted pressure to make public the ownership register the island has kept for 70 years, until such transparency becomes a global standard.

Britain's Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 compels all OTs to establish publicly accessible ownership registers by 2023, while the EU requires its member states to do the same through the bloc's fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive.

In the United States, the House of Representatives passed the Corporate Transparency Act 2019 in October last year.

The Bill requires certain new and existing small corporations and limited liability companies to disclose information about their beneficial owners, however there appears to be no requirement for the register to be public.

Only if the Bill is approved by the US Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump, however, will it take effect.

To read Curtis Dickinson's statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”

Finance minister Curtis Dickinson (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published July 17, 2020 at 12:04 pm (Updated July 20, 2020 at 12:51 pm)

Register decision in response to ‘new standards’

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