Oxfam makes call for public beneficial registers in Jersey
OXFAM GB has waded into the controversy around public beneficial registers by calling on the British government to force Jersey to introduce them.
The charity wants UK ministers to use similar procedures in relation to the Crown Dependencies that were recently put in place to force the British Overseas Territories to introduce such registers. Supporters of public registers claim they would reveal the true ownership of assets held in such jurisdictions.
However, the charity’s call for such action is likely to raise eyebrows given that it would be contrary to constitutional conventions that Jersey and the other Crown Dependencies of Guernsey and the Isle of Man are responsible for domestic legislation.
In evidence submitted to UK MPs investigating tax evasion, Oxfam GB said: ‘In some areas, the UK government has been at the forefront of international trends, including being the first to establish a public register of beneficial ownership of companies.
‘Oxfam supports the extension of this measure to the UK’s Overseas Territories and expects the government to use the formal powers described in the Sanctions and Anti Money Laundering Act 2018 if there is an absence of adequate action by the OTs themselves. We hope the government uses its influence to reach the same result in the Crown Dependencies,’ said the charity.
Backing the use of Orders in Council to ensure OTs implemented public registers, it said: ‘We would like the same measure to be applied to CDs if required. Public registers are an important tool against tax evasion, and can help limit the potential for some kinds of tax avoidance, including by wealthy individuals.’
Driving home the message, the evidence concluded: ‘The government should ensure the Crown Dependencies introduce public registers of beneficial ownership, using similar procedures as mandated for the Overseas Territories in the Sanctions and Anti Money Laundering Act (2018) if necessary.’
Jersey Finance has also submitted evidence to MPs on the House of Commons treasury sub-committee, which is holding an inquiry into tax avoidance and evasion – including in relation to the issue of beneficial ownership registers. In particular, JFL asserted that the Island already has an ‘effective’ system of collating and verifying beneficial ownership information which has been collected for almost 30 years and a more formal mechanism was agreed in 2016: ‘This means that law enforcement authorities in the UK, including tax authorities, have the automatic right to provision of unrestricted and timely beneficial ownership information held in Jersey, for the prevention and detection of corruption, money laundering, terrorism financing, financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other serious and organised crime.’
It also highlighted Jersey’s long-standing commitment to meet international standards: ‘To be clear, tax evasion is illegal in Jersey and it is a criminal offence to facilitate or engage in tax evasion in Jersey, the UK or elsewhere in the world. Jersey has no need or desire to engage in any such schemes designed to help companies or individuals evade UK or worldwide tax.’