The government of the Bahamas said it has “no intention” of making its beneficial ownership registries public, in bold defiance of Britain’s move to introduce new legislation that requires its 14 overseas territories to implement a fully transparent system of company ownership by 2020.
The deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas, KP Turnquest, made the following statement to the local newspaper, the Bahamas Tribune:
“It is our intent to have a private Registry. There is no intention to have a public registry, and that is our position at this point.”
Bruce Raine, international private banking systems (IPBS) principal, who was also quoted in the news article, provided an explanation for why a certain level of confidentiality is necessary, particularly in some politically unstable countries where there are high incidences of crime.
“People in Trinidad, people in Brazil, they’re kidnapped for their money. You don’t want information leaked that allows people to tie ‘two and two’ together, and shows ‘so and so’ is the owner of that business. If that gets out, that person is in a whole heap of trouble, yet they’ve not done anything wrong,”
Bruce Raine, International Private Banking Systems (IPBS) principal
The debate has been a tempestuous one following the announcement of the controversial amendment to the anti-money laundering bill which was passed by the House of Commons on May 2nd, with campaigners for greater financial transparency praising the amendment as a victory.
However, it has sparked heated debate from offshore territories, with some, namely Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, hinting that they could seek legal action to block the demand, a move that could strain their strong ties to the U.K. The development is regarded by many of the British Overseas Territories as a threat to their status as legitimate centres for international finance, in an already turbulent environment.
The controversial legislation was passed in Britain as the Bahamas waits to learn whether it will be removed from the EU’s “blacklist” of jurisdictions whose tax and transparency standards it deems inadequate.