Official Downing Street photo

Prime Minister Theresa May and Lord Ahmad Speak To OT Leaders on Public Registers

On Thursday, “the Prime Minister and Lord Ahmad, Minister for the Overseas Territories, held a conference call with leaders of the Overseas Territories with financial centres to discuss company ownership transparency and, in particular, the issue of public registers of beneficial ownership,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“The Prime Minister spoke about the recent passage of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act. She said that she understood that the cross-Party amendment to this legislation that would require the Overseas Territories to create public registers was a matter of great concern for the leaders and that she was conscious of the strong reactions the issue had provoked in their territories.

“The Prime Minister added that the government highly values the relationship with the Overseas Territories and would continue to work in a collaborative and pragmatic way on these issues and others.

“The Prime Minister spoke of the government’s efforts to promote public registers of company beneficial ownership as the global standard and reiterated that we would expect other major financial centres, including the Crown Dependencies, to adopt public registers at that point.

“She also welcomed the importance of the existing cooperation of the Overseas Territories with UK law enforcement agencies and emphasised the need for this to continue and develop.

“She invited the leaders on the call to share their positions and opinions on the issue and made clear that the UK’s aim is to secure the best possible outcome in a way that minimises any possible risks to the economies of the Overseas Territories.

Montserrat’s premier said on the matter earlier this month that “I think it is necessary to state, up front, my concern that this may very well set in motion a worrying precedent for future legislative changes in Montserrat and other British Overseas Territories.

“Despite recent pronouncements by the UK of a renewed partnership with the Overseas Territories, this action was certainly to the contrary as it shows a lack of trust and disregard for the Montserrat Constitution. Especially since the UK Crown Dependencies Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man (which are significant offshore financial services centres) are exempted from the requirement. This has already led to concerns about double-standards.
“I must make it very clear, that even without the UK’s legislative intervention, Montserrat has been governing its financial affairs in accordance with international standards and we will continue to do so. In simple terms, we did not need legislation from the UK to mandate us to comply with international standards for our financial affairs, as we have been adapting and complying to these standards for a number of years.”
According to the Downing Street press release, the OT leaders “looked forward to Lord Ahmad’s visit to the Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Anguilla next week, and to the June Joint Ministerial Council in London.”