Martin Kenney comments on moves to force further transparency on UK UBO registries

Our Head of Firm Martin Kenney was asked by the Daily Mail newspaper to comment on pressure being brought to bear on the UK government by some UK politicians, who want to tighten regulations and prevent overseas owners of UK property from hiding ultimate ownership details using trusts.

In a letter sent by the Treasury and the UK government’s business department to a member of the House of Lords in July, the government said that it opposed making information on beneficiaries of trusts available to the public without a consultation.

In response to these developments, Martin said:

“I agree with the government’s view that it is right to maintain a sensible balance  between transparency and privacy. We all have a fundamental right to privacy, as the Court of Justice of the European Union found last November in the European Union, and the proposal to publish trust beneficiary details could negatively impact on the ability of UK PLC to do business.

“Total transparency is also self-defeating. If you insist on publishing all UBO data, crooks will – and have – simply formulate a workaround, making them even more difficult to identify. I have long predicted that faced with “open” beneficial ownership registers, crooks will simply use nominees to cover their tracks. We should also remember that there can be many legitimate reasons for using trusts, too.

“Controlled transparency, where all UBO data is verified and held on secure systems, accessible by law enforcement and by court disclosure order to legitimate third parties, remains the way forward to effective fraud deterrence and subsequent asset tracing and recovery.

“While I welcome the government’s common-sense approach in this instance, it is a shame that the UK does not afford the same courtesy to those doing business in the Caribbean as they do in London.”

For further comment, please contact Nick Ryan.