Exclusive: Some shell companies sidestep new UK transparency rules

Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:07am EDT
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By Tom Bergin

LONDON (Reuters) - Some UK shell companies under offshore control may be skirting new rules which were designed to clamp down on corruption and tax evasion by forcing businesses to reveal their true owners, a Reuters analysis of corporate filings shows.

British government officials have heralded the rules, which came into effect last month, as a world-leading transparency move to tackle crime and urged other nations to follow suit.

Under the new system, statements which UK companies file when they are set up and on each anniversary of that date showing changes in shareholders or directors are supposed to include details of “Persons with significant control (PSC)”.

For most companies this is straightforward. But some owners use nominees or shell companies, which can have legitimate purposes but also can mask international crime, governments and international bodies like the World Bank say.

Of 300 offshore shell companies identified by Reuters, 22 would typically have been required to have published the beneficial ownership information by now because their reporting dates fell in the weeks since July 1, when the rules came into force.

All but one of them has not done so. The ways they have avoided the rules lay bare, for the first time, several loopholes in the new regulation.

Twelve filed their annual ownership statement before the new rules came into effect on July 1, although their anniversaries fell after that date. They could thus apply the old rules which did not require them to declare beneficial owners.

Others filed late or stated they did not have any beneficial owners.   Continued...

A general view of Seychelles beach February 29, 2012. To match Exclusive BRITAIN-SHELLCOMPANIES/   REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo