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The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Government has invited comments on proposals to introduce a central register showing the ultimate ownership of offshore companies, and is considering whether this information should be publicly available.
Introducing the proposals, the islands' premier, Rufus Ewing, explained that the measures being considered would enhance transparency and accountability in the global financial services sector leading to reduced risk of money-laundering, greater investor confidence, increased investment and, ultimately, more revenue. The Government has said the proposal follows the release of 2012 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations on beneficial ownership as well as specific suggestions from the UK Government.
Currently there is no obligation on the managers of a company to identify the beneficial owners, and there is no official system to comprehensively collate this information. However, there is a requirement for registered agents to hold this information for exempt companies (that is, companies which do not trade in the TCI, or offshore companies). Although there is a register of documents related to local companies, no information about exempt companies is currently available on the public register.
The consultation paper invites interested parties to address ten questions which broadly consider: whether there should be a central registry; what information should be stored on it; and, whether or not it should be accessible to the public.
Although most jurisdictions hold a central registry of company information, these registers typically show the legal owners (such as shareholders and nominees) rather than the ultimate ownership. And, although some jurisdictions require a central registry of beneficial ownership, it is normal that these registers are not publicly accessible. The consultation document considers the risk of being a 'first-mover' on publicly providing beneficial ownership information, but acknowledges potentially significant reputational benefits.
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