NGOs welcome MEP's vote for ground-breaking changes to fight money laundering

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A cross political party agreement in the European Parliament puts pressure on EU member states to step up the fight for corporate transparency
Soon it might be a lot harder for criminals, tax evaders, corrupt politicians and other money launderers to hide their identity and their illicit funds behind anonymous shell companies, following a key vote today in the European Parliament.
Today European parliamentarians from the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committees voted in favour of public registries which would provide information on the real, or ‘beneficial’, owners of companies. The long-awaited vote, which recommends significant improvements to the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) and would make it much harder for criminals to launder their money using European companies. It would require each member state to establish registries that are open to the public upon online identification.
"By voting for publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership, European parliamentarians have made a major breakthrough in the fight against international organised crime and industrial scale tax evasion” explained Koen Roovers, EU advisor for the Financial Transparency Coalition. “It will bring greater financial transparency and strengthen corporate accountability."
Tove Maria Ryding, tax coordinator at Eurodad said: "Today, a strong group of parliamentarians responded to the tax haven scandals. Now it is up to the European governments to follow their example and show that they will not allow the use of secret phantom firms to continue."
Catherine Olier, Oxfam’s EU policy advisor, said: “It’s excellent news to see MEPs act on the G8 promise to kick off a crack-down on dodgy tax practises. Today’s vote is an important step for a more transparent tax system – a necessary one for poor countries to reclaim the billions they lose from tax dodging every single year.”
“Public registries of who really owns and controls companies will give journalists, police, tax authorities and civil society a vital tool to track illicit money trails”, said Robert Palmer money laundering campaign leader for Global Witness. “Ending anonymous companies will expose dirty money and hidden identities to daylight, helping to curb the corruption and tax evasion that keeps poor countries poor.”
Next steps
Today’s recommendations – voted through by the EP’s ECON and LIBE committees - are likely to be adopted by the European Parliament, in plenary, in the coming months. Afterwards the European Parliament will discuss its position with EU governments and the European Commission. At that point, the ball is squarely in the court of the member states to ensure that the proposed changes become law.
If the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) is revised according to today’s vote, any company registered in an EU member state will be required to provide information about its beneficial owner including: name, date of birth, nationality, jurisdiction of incorporation, contact details, number and categories of shares, and – if applicable - the proportion of shareholding or control.
Today’s vote for beneficial ownership disclosure requirement follows last summer’s adoption by the G8 of an Action Plan to tackle misuse of companies and legal arrangements – including commitments on beneficial ownership - and the announcement in October by Prime Minister David Cameron that there would be public access to beneficial ownership registers in the UK.
Brussels, February 20, 2014
- Financial Transparency Coalition - Eurodad - Global Witness - Oxfam
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