The UK government has stalled on extending the current UK beneficial ownership registry of companies to Britain’s overseas territories and crown dependencies.

The registry was introduced in the UK in 2017 to tackle money laundering and improve corporate transparency.

A longer than expected delay rolling out the registry to offshore territories has now been confirmed. It will now not be extended to those territories until 2023, whereas the original expectation was for a launch date of 2021.

Opposing views

While members of the British parliament are criticising the government for stalling the process, several overseas territories and crown dependencies are resisting the imposition of the UK registry on them.

A supporter of the roll out is Liberal Democratic party opposition leader of the British parliament, Vince Cable, who said, “Britain is now a world leader in financial transparency and dealing with money laundering owing to the public register of beneficial ownership.”

“What action do[es] the government propose to take to stop those standards being undermined by crown dependencies, which rely on the British passport and British defence protection, but operate in a much more opaque manner?” he asked in parliament.

Unconstitutional claims

The Cayman Islands is amongst several overseas territories frustrated by what they see as the UK government’s unconstitutional order for the islands to introduce a beneficial ownership registry (Trade Based Financial Crime, 21 September 2018).

The fourteen UK overseas territories are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cayman Islands, Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia on Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena and its dependencies (Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The crown dependencies are the islands of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.