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Cayman Islands joins global money-laundering crackdown

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10/09/2019 | 10:03am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - The Cayman Islands said on Wednesday it would make public information on the beneficial ownership of companies, prompting anti-corruption campaigners to call on other offshore jurisdictions to follow suit as part of a global crackdown on money-laundering.

The Cayman Islands government said it expected public registers of beneficial ownership - the key to showing who is behind shell companies - to become the international norm and would be implemented by European Union countries by 2023.

"We will advance legislation to introduce public registers of beneficial ownership information when that occurs," the Caribbean islands' administration said in a statement.

"While undue focus is often placed on our jurisdiction, we fully appreciate the need to ensure coherent and efficient registration and exchange of beneficial ownership information to facilitate the transparent flow of legitimate capital."

Anti-corruption campaigner Global Witness said all other British Overseas Territories should take similar action.

"This commitment from the Cayman Islands to reveal the real people behind companies on their shores shows how company transparency is now the global standard in financial integrity," Naomi Hirst, a campaigner at Global Witness, said.

"The writing is on the wall for the rest of the British Overseas Territories who will today be feeling the pressure to follow suit and announce their own plans as a matter of urgency."

Britain has said overseas territories, such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, must make company ownership information public by the end of 2023.

In June, the three British Crown Dependencies - Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man - said they would move to reveal publicly the true ownership of firms based in their jurisdictions.

Last year, British police said individuals using complex company structures to hide their links to assets were increasingly moving away from British crown dependencies and overseas territories to other jurisdictions because of greater cooperation with the authorities. But the Cayman Islands was a destination that was still causing problems.

In its statement on Wednesday, the Cayman Islands said it had a "long history of upholding international standards and working cooperatively with tax and law enforcement authorities in other jurisdictions."

(Writing by William Schomberg. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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