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Visit of MPs campaigning for greater financial transparency

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TWO UK MPs who are campaigning for a public register of beneficial ownership to be implemented in Jersey have said that they ‘remain committed’ to their cause following a visit to the Island this week.

MPs Andrew Mitchell and Dame Margaret Hodge during a recent visit to Guernsey, with the island's Chief Minister Gavin St Pier (centre)

Dame Margaret Hodge and former Tory party chief whip Andrew Mitchell are both pushing for the change and have also visited the Isle of Man and Guernsey.

Following a vote on an amendment to a UK anti-money-laundering bill, a public register – which reveals who ultimately owns a company – will need to be implemented within British Overseas Territories by the end of 2020.

But Jersey – as a Crown Dependency – was not included within the amendment. However, in June, Mr Mitchell said that the UK Parliament could force the register on Jersey if it did not do so voluntarily.

In a statement, Dame Margaret explained her and Mr Mitchell’s position following their visit to the Island.

‘On Monday, I travelled to Jersey with my colleague Andrew Mitchell MP. We shared cordial exchanges of views with representatives of the States of Jersey and of the financial services sector on the Island,’ she said.

‘We both remain committed to our campaign for public registers of beneficial ownership in Jersey.

‘The whole of the UK family, including the Crown Dependencies, must have the same levels of financial transparency.’

Jersey currently has a closed list accessible only to law enforcement and tax authorities and it is feared that a public list could undermine the confidentiality of some of Jersey’s financial services users.

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However, Mr Mitchell said that closed registers were ineffective.

‘I am sure our visit will have been helpful in underlining the wider point that greater transparency and openness are essential if we are to tackle dirty money and illicit money flows and that closed-register access, while welcome, does not adequately deliver that,’ he said.

‘This is why the United Kingdom and the other 27 EU members are embracing open registers of ownership and the UK overseas territories are too.

‘Dame Margaret and I both returned from Jersey convinced that these points are very much in the minds of local policy makers.’

But Chief Minister John Le Fondré said the visit had given the government a chance to reaffirm its commitment to combating financial crime.

He said: ‘The visit was productive and informative for all participants. I also hope that our visitors will leave the Island in possession of greater understanding of Jersey’s efforts to tackle financial crime, and of the measures we are taking to ensure that we remain a robustly regulated and transparent international financial centre.’

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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