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Beneficial Ownership Registers for British Overseas Territories

British Overseas Territories (BOTs) will soon be forced to maintain public registers of beneficial owners of companies registered in their jurisdiction, following amendments in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill.

The territories likely to be affected are British Virgin Islands (BVI), Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, and Montserrat. The governments of those territories will need an equivalent of the UK's register of persons with significant control (PSC registers) by 31 December 2020, or else this will be imposed directly by the UK.

Some of the countries concerned have already introduced, or are introducing, a beneficial ownership register, notably BVI, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, the information from which can be shared with the UK authorities, but had taken the decision not to make the details public. The Crown Dependencies - Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man - which are not affected by these changes, will not be forced to make their existing beneficial ownership registers public, but they will be under increasing pressure to do so voluntarily.

Understandably these changes are proving controversial from a constitutional perspective; the BOTs are self governing, autonomous territories and the imposition of a direct law from the UK has sparked allegations of colonialism. Further there are fears as to the financial effects on the countries concerned and that they will lose out on business to their competitor countries.

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