A British MP who put pressure on Jersey to make its register of who owns companies public says 2023 is too far away.
Dame Margaret Hodge has welcomed the move, but says waiting more than four years is 'not acceptable' and has called on the Crown Dependencies to promise that the registers will be 'truly open, free to access and in an easily used format':
“I am pleased to hear that the Crown Dependencies are planning to put in place public registers of beneficial ownership. This is a victory in the fight against money laundering and economic crime that has been spearheaded by the UK parliament and civil society organisations. Greater transparency will mean we can follow the dirty money.
However, the current proposed deadline is far too long. If legislation will be brought in 2023, the registers may not be made public until 2024 or later. This is not acceptable. I also want assurances that the registers will be truly open, free to access, and in an easily used format.”
Jersey's External Relations Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, says opening the island's Register of Beneficial Ownership meets 'developing international standards of accessibility and transparency', despite robustly defending Jersey's current approach in the past.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister - Theresa May - welcomed the announcement:
"I’m very pleased to see the announcement today from Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man and indeed we continue to work with the Overseas Territories to ensure that they do follow those standards and open those books, so that people can see who is actually owning those companies."
In an interview with Channel 103 looking back on his first year in office, the Chief Minister - Senator John Le Fondré - criticised Dame Hodge's intervention, saying she needs to realise it's not in an MP's remit to legislate for the Crown Dependencies:
"What I find difficult with Dame Margaret Hodge's position, bearing in mind she is very much is a backbencher in another jurisdiction, is that she fails to recognise that she cannot legislate for the Channel Islands - or for Jersey - even though that has been explained to her on a whole number of occasions.
"She fails to recognise that she's speaking from a jurisdiction that has a poorer issue around the registration of beneficial ownership than we do. Our register's been around for 30 years. It is verified. It balances privacy against secrecy. So we maintain the privacy, but by allowing the relevant law enforcement agencies to have access to that register, we do not have the secrecy issues she keeps claiming we do."