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Hidden owners of 'shell' companies to be exposed

01 Nov 2013

David Cameron has announced that a universal register of information on the secret beneficial ownership of companies will be published, in the hope that it will help fight tax evasion.

The Prime Minister spoke of the move at the Open Government Partnership summit in London, yesterday where he said that the ‘complex web of shell companies’ had been hiding their business dealings for too long and the ‘cloak of secrecy’ surrounding company ownership has led to ‘questionable practice and downright illegality.’

The Institute of Directors agreed – a spokesman has said that it was ‘right that the true owners of companies should be transparent both to the company itself and the wider business community.’

Gavin Hayman, the director of campaigns at Global Witness, an anti-corruption organisation, also agreed, commenting that ‘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.’

However Adam Marshall, the Director of policy and External Affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce warned that there was concern that the introduction of the register could ‘create unintended consequences for law-abiding businesses, such as increased regulatory and reporting burdens’, and said that ‘Ministers must work with businesses to address these concerns over the coming weeks’.