The Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering group, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (“Moneyval“) issued its annual report this week and called on governments to end corporate beneficial ownership.
The Report noted that organized crime uses corporate structures set up on jurisdictions in which there is corporate secrecy to launder funds. Trusts and foundations, in addition to normal companies, are set up usually in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and even Canada, where corporate secrecy is available. Corporate secrecy allows private entities to hide the names and affiliations of shareholders so that it is impossible to tell who actually controls or owns an entity. Because it is not possible to determine corporate ownership, prosecutions are equivalently hampered.
As noted in the Report: “One of the biggest problems worldwide in money laundering and confiscation enquiries is identifying who are the ultimate beneficial owners of companies or trusts with complex ownership structures into which criminal proceeds have been introduced. Many major investigations run into the ground because information on the real owners of companies cannot be accessed.”