Government Attempts to Stave off Defeat on Money Laundering Bill

Twenty Tory MPs are set to rebel against the whip over an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill.



The amendment would force British overseas tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands, to publish lists of the real owners of companies registered in their juristiction. 

If passed, it would force British tax havens to name tax avoiders and money launderers registered for tax purposes in these dependencies.

The amendment is to Government legislation that attempts to make sure the UK is not in contravention of international obligations after the repeal of the European Communities Act of 1972, as part of the final stages of the Brexit process in March 2019.

However critics have pointed out that the bill does not address the use of British overseas territories.

At present, the National Crime Agency estimates that some £90 billion a year moves through the UK’s financial markets, shell companies and property, much of which travels though British territories that do not have the same degree of financial oversight as the mainland UK.

In a statement, the Labour MP Margaret Hodge commented that that tax havens have had five years "to change but have chosen not to" and so the Government should now enact the proposals suggested by then Prime Minister, David Cameron, in 2013.

"Britain is increasingly the jurisdiction of choice for every crook, kleptocrat and corrupt individual who wants to launder dirty money into the country," she said. "Our amendment is supported by all the opposition parties and many on the government benches. If Theresa May is serious when she says there is 'no place for these people or their money' in the UK, she and her government should welcome this amendment."

The Government has claimed that any moves towards transparency in the tax affairs of British Oversees Territories might sever relations between the tax havens and the UK.

In a comment to the Jersey Evening Post, the Jersey chief minister Ian Gorst said the island would resist the amendment if passed into law.

“It is unnecessary to extend the UK bill to Jersey, since we already have legislation in place for sharing beneficial-ownership information for law enforcement purposes,” he said.

“The government of Jersey will consider the question of a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership in its own time and with Jersey’s interests in mind.”

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