Nick Shaxson ■ On our recent event on beneficial ownership in Buenos Aires
The Second International Conference on Beneficial Ownership Registries took place in Buenos Aires on August 31st and September 1st. The event was held again at Argentina’s Central Bank and was co-organized by the Tax Justice Network, Argentina’s General Prosecution Office (Ministerio Público Fiscal), Fundación SES, Latindadd and the Red de Justicia Fiscal LAC. It was sponsored by Argentina’s Anti-corruption Office.
More than 200 people attended the event, which brought together civil society organizations from Latin America as well as public officers from Argentina’s tax authorities (AFIP), the commercial registry (IGJ), the FIU, the SEC, the Foreign Office, judges, prosecutors, civil society and journalists of the main newspapers. In addition, tax and FIU authorities from Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay participated as panelists, as well as Costa Rica’s Vice-Minister of Economy.
The first morning, the sessions referred to the importance of beneficial ownership registries and new developments in the EU and OECD, with a focus on the UK (for companies) and France (for trusts), as well as national experiences in Latin America. Current difficulties and proposals were expressed, such as an idea to register those with General Powers of Attorney to manage a company, since this is a way to hide BOs. The afternoon panels described current laws and proposals, including the commercial registry’s attempt to digitalize all information (currently on paper), provide access to such data, and also one of the panelists’ personal view in favour of considering a BO as anyone with at least one share.
On the second day judges and prosecutors described some of the difficulties they share, based for example on Panama Papers’ description on how easy it is for drug traffickers to create offshore anonymous entities in Uruguay and open bank accounts there. The last panel involved public access to information, with an upcoming development to publish budget-related data and information contained in the main registries (such as the commercial registry, car ownership registries and in the future, real estate registries).
In conclusion, the event was a great success given the number of participants and high-ranking public officers of Argentina’s most relevant agencies, together with those of Latin America. While several deficiencies were described (Argentina still has no digitalized company ownership records, let along beneficial ownership data), it is clear that the issue is now part of the agenda and civil society will push to have information produced and published.