European transparency and anti-corruption campaigning organisations have sent the following letter to German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble requesting that his government should support demands by the European Parliament that information about the ultimate beneficial owners (the true, warm-blooded humans hiding behind shell companies with nominee directors and nominee shareholders) should be made available on public registry. The German government is apparently resisting this move.
Berlin, 3 December 2014
Dear Minister Schäuble
The current revision of the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive provides a unique opportunity to put a stop to the activities of criminals, tax evaders and embezzlers in Europe. It is of utmost importance that disclosure of the beneficiaries and owners (“beneficial owners”) of companies, foundations, trusts and other legal entities on a register is made mandatory and that the register is publicly available.
Last week during negotiations the European Parliament called unequivocally for the introduction of such a register, and demanded that there should be no watering down of the proposal, as the European Council and particularly the German government have been proposing.
Having public registers of ultimate beneficial ownership will provide investigating authorities, the public, media and business in Europe and worldwide with better overview; this extends to the people of developing countries, some of whose elites exploit the lack of transparency in the European Union. Abuses and crimes would be avoided or could be cleared up quickly. In this context, Ukraine has just introduced a public register of enterprises.
We therefore call on you, and your government to desist from blocking the proposal and make way for all EU countries to have a mandatory register freely available to the public.
Furthermore, we require publication of all infringements of the Directive’s requirements by banks and other responsible entities. The EU-Parliament and EU-Commission have been calling for this. The European Council, in contrast, wants to publish the data only on a case by case basis after evaluating the appropriateness / commensurability , which appears also to be the German government position. But only full disclosure can dissuade banks. For a long time, the US has taken a different direction by publishing the decisions by the authorities. Disclosure also helps governments elsewhere in the world, and the media and civil society, to subject banks to effective accountability.
Last, but by no means least, experience teaches us that transparency of the treatment of standards and directives ensures their evolving development and ultimately the crucial convergence of frameworks. Therefore, we urge you to demand disclosure at EU council.
With best regards
Frank Bsirske, Ver.di
Markus Henn, TJN-Germany
Pirmin Spiegel, Misereor
Marion Lieser, Oxfam Germany
Caspar von Hauenschild, Transparency International Germany
Pater Wahl, WEED
Tobias Kahler, ONE Germany
Jens Martens, Global Policy Forum
Sandro Mattioli, Mafia? Nein Danke!
John Christensen, TJN
Jesse Griffith, Eurodad
Heinz Hödl, KOO
Gavin Hayman, Global Witness