An increasing number of countries are looking at creating public registers revealing the identities of the beneficial owners of shell companies, some of which may be extensively used in trade-based financial crimes.

Jurisdictions across the world are also lining up to sign up to an information sharing initiative to combat tax evasion.

Public registers

In the wake of the so-called Panama Papers scandal, the UK has said it, along with its crown dependencies and overseas territories will now provide company ownership data to UK tax and law enforcement authorities.

Australia quickly followed suit, becoming the second major economy to create a public register revealing the identities of the beneficial owners of shell companies, particularly in an effort to stamp out tax avoidance by multinational companies.

Political exposure

Governments have come under the spotlight in the wake of revelations in the Panama Papers, especially in instances when senior politicians have been shown by the leaked papers to have benefitted from offshore arrangements.

The Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, faced questions in parliament from opposition MPs about his personal investments in Cayman-registered funds.

British prime minister David Cameron has also faced questions about his personal wealth and offshore investments, admitting he benefitted from selling a stake in Blairmore investment fund, which featured in the Panama Papers, for £31,500 four months before he became prime minister.

Information sharing

Jurisdictions signing up to the information-sharing initiative to combat tax evasion include the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Latvia, Croatia, Belgium, Ireland, Cyprus, Slovenia, Denmark, Malta, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Estonia, Greece, Czech Republic, Montserrat, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar.