Both G8 and G20 have committed to tackling tax haven secrecy. In the past 18 months they have made specific commitments to create registers of beneficial ownership of companies, though we are far from convinced they are prepared to take every necessary step to prevent crooks from hiding behind offshore legal structures. It serves little purpose (say) if an investigation into a British Virgin Island registered company reveals that the company is wholly owned by a trust settled in Jersey, since Jersey doesn’t disclose any information about who settles or benefits from trusts settled in that jurisdiction. Hence the importance of this quote from an article in SwissInfo:
“We must not be naive . . . a criminal would never declare to a registrar that he controls a company, and the company registries will never be in a position to verify the information given to them . . . The beneficial ownership registry concept will only be credible if it included also legal arrangements such as trusts. Limiting it to companies only is window dressing at best.”
And the source of the quote? Not a tax justice advocate, but Daniel Thelesklaf (pictured), director of Liechtenstein’s Financial Investigation Unit.