The Crown Dependencies have today (13 December 2023) published a joint commitment to increase transparency and accessibility to information held on their registers of beneficial ownership.
The central registers of company beneficial ownership in Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man already exchange information with international law enforcement entities and tax authorities around the world. In line with the shared global aim of combatting financial crime in all its forms, access to the information will be extended to include:
- Financial services business and certain other businesses (collectively described as obliged entities) who are required to conduct customer due diligence
- Those media and civil society organisations who can demonstrate a legitimate interest in accessing the information in order to combat financial crime
The joint commitment follows careful consideration of recent decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights which recognise the incompatibility with public access with the right to privacy, and the recent international developments in response to this. (It therefore replaces the commitment published in June 2019). The commitment states: “We have a longstanding and independently verified track record of meeting international standards. We are proud of our global leadership in tax cooperation, in combatting money laundering and in countering the financing of terrorism and proliferation financing. We will continue to provide appropriate and effective transparency which can support those critical objectives.”
The Crown Dependencies have already undertaken substantial preparatory work to enable obliged entity access, and it will be implemented before the end of 2024 in a manner that puts in place appropriate safeguards to effectively manage any interference with privacy rights.
Subject to necessary approvals in the Crown Dependencies’ legislatures, access for those with a legitimate interest will be provided in line with international obligations extended to the three islands, recognising that there is a crucial balance to strike between protecting human rights and combatting financial crime. The Crown Dependencies will develop and deliver ‘legitimate interest’ access in a leading timeframe, taking into account international developments. Proposals to agree the definition of legitimate interest will be presented to the islands’ parliaments by Q4 of 2024 at the latest with implementation following in a reasonable timeframe afterwards.
Deputy Kristina Moore, Chief Minister of Jersey, said:
“Jersey meets, and helps to shape, international standards for tackling financial crime. Jersey and the other Crown Dependencies are independently considered global leaders in this area. It is important to look to shared global and regional approaches and we have a proven and ongoing ‘good neighbour’ policy of cooperation with the UK and EU on such matters. Jersey continues to encourage other jurisdictions around the world to raise their own standards, particularly for the obtaining, verifying and provision of appropriate access to ownership information and effective regulation of the financial services sector.”
Deputy Peter Ferbrache, Chief Minister of Guernsey, said:
“Guernsey is pleased to announce today its next steps for enhanced transparency and accessibility of information on its register of beneficial ownership. The same approach is being taken by the other Crown Dependencies and we are moving together to swift, but realistic, implementation timescales. The islands share the vital global objective of all responsible jurisdictions to combat financial crime in all its forms.”
Alfred Cannan MHK, Chief Minister of Isle of Man, said:
“The Isle of Man has a longstanding, and independently verified, track record of meeting international standards. Working with the other Crown Dependencies, the Isle of Man continues to monitor and respond to international developments to ensure that our own systems remain robust, effective and in line with international obligations. The commitment announced today outlines our shared approach on access to information on our registers.”