WithBill C-42: An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts recently receiving Royal Ascent, Canada will soon have a publicly accessible registry that lists the ultimate beneficial owners of companies. 

In response, BVI-based Canadian fraud and asset recovery lawyer Martin Kenney, Head of Firm at Martin Kenney & Co (MKS), said:

“I am grateful that Canada is at long last addressing the scandal of ‘snow-washing’ and the blight that that has had on the Canadian financial and regulatory landscape.

“However, I have reservations about the manner in which Canada is embracing the ideology that surrounds open Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO) Registers. I have voiced concerns regarding both corporate and personal privacy on numerous occasions. Although transparency is honourably intended, it has serious flaws that are often ridden roughshod over by those who champion it.

“Given that this is now a done deal, there appears to be little mention of how the information supplied by those opening companies in Canada will be verified. Canada needs to learn from the mistakes of the United Kingdom, where the Companies House public register has been regularly criticised for holding unverified information that has rendered it almost useless in investigative terms. The old adage ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is often the case when UK investigators conduct UBO research.

“The vast majority of law abiding people will provide relevant and honest information to support their application to open new companies. However, those who are dishonest will use frontmen – nominees – to open entities that they intend to abuse. Thus ‘open’ public UBO registers are not the panacea to corporate crime, fraud, corruption, and money laundering that some would have us believe.

“Indeed, the problems with the UK register have been so pronounced that the UK’s latest Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act (ECCTA) has sections dedicated to addressing this problem, seeking to implement changes that will improve the verification process when companies are established.

“Putting aside the privacy arguments, Canada must invest significantly in resourcing the verification processes connected to the establishment of new and existing companies, otherwise the noble intentions of the Act will be seriously undermined.”

Read Martin Kenney’s previous articles on this issue: