Plans to lift 'cloak of secrecy' off 'shell company' owners

Prime Minister announces move to create central register for all British firms to combat criminals and corruption

All British-registered firms will soon have to reveal their true ownership to prevent criminals from using shadowy “shell companies” as a front for terrorist funding, money-laundering or tax evasion, David Cameron will announce today.

Such firms, which exist only on paper, are legally entitled to keep the identities of their key figures, hidden, making them ideal for hiding cash from the authorities. The Prime Minister will set out plans which are designed to lift this “cloak of secrecy” by creating a central register of the ultimate ownership of UK companies.

He will argue that the initiative will benefit domestic taxpayers and stop corrupt foreign regimes from hiding their riches in “shell companies”.

The moves were initially signalled at this summer’s G8 summit in Northern Ireland, but the Government had only been expected to make the register available to the Inland Revenue.

However, to the delight of campaigners, it has gone further than anticipated and decided to open the register to public scrutiny.

The scheme, which has been championed by the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, is likely to be included in the Coalition’s next legislative programme, with a view to establishing the register by 2015.

Mr Cameron will say: “For too long a small minority have hidden their business dealings behind a complicated web of shell companies and this cloak of secrecy has fuelled all manner of questionable practice and downright illegality.”

He will say the illegality is “bad for the developing world as corrupt regimes stash their money abroad under different identities” and “bad for Britain’s economy too as people evade their taxes through untraceable trails of paperwork”.

He will tell a conference in London: “Not only is this hugely unfair to the millions of hard-working people in Britain who pay their tax, but it’s also bad for business. To keep corporate taxes low, you’ve got to keep corporate taxes coming in.”

The Prime Minister will call on other countries to back Britain’s approach.

One source said last night: “We are one of the first countries to say ‘we are doing this’ and we want others  to follow.”

Gavin Hayman, the director of the campaign group Global Witness, said: “Anonymous shell companies are the global getaway cars for crime, corruption and tax evasion. Full credit should go to the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary for acting to take away the keys.”

Roger Barker, the director of corporate governance and professional standards at the Institute of Directors, said: “It is right the true owners of companies should be transparent both to the company itself and the wider business community. Using the corporate veil to obscure underlying ownership brings the corporate sector into disrepute and creates significant opportunities for wrongdoing or criminal activity.”

The anti-poverty campaign group One hailed the move as a “really important moment in the fight  against corruption”. Adrian Lovett, its Europe executive director, said: “David Cameron has made life much more difficult for the criminal and corrupt who exploit secrecy around company ownership. Making information about who owns and controls companies publicly available will give citizens and journalists in developing countries access to the data they need to follow the money and root out corruption.”

Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£21000 - £32000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 Teacher Would yo...

Teacher

£100 - £120 per day + key stage 1, key stage 2: Randstad Education Chelmsford:...

Data Analyst

£30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried