A leading campaign group Global Witness has found that most EU members have failed to meet a legal deadline on introducing public registers of companies’ real owners, in line with a 2018 EU directive.
Global Witness campaigner Tina Mklinaric described transparency over companies’ ownership as “a key tool in fighting corruption, in an age where the corrupt have exploited global financial secrecy to move around large sums of stolen wealth”.
She expressed disappointment that “despite having two years to get this right many of those in the EU are still dragging their feet”.
“At the appropriate moment it’s vital that the EU addresses its members who have yet to publicly reveal company ownership. This means being prepared to sanction those that have not met its deadline, and enforcing the rules that it has gone to great pains to set”, she pointed out.
Global Witness cited only six European countries, including the UK, which fulfiled the public register systems meeting the EU directive’s transparency-related conditions.
In May 2018, the EU approved the document obliging the bloc’s member states to publish the beneficial owners of firms registered in their jurisdictions by January 2020.
This came in response to the so-called Panama Papers scandal, regarding the leak of a whole array of files in 2016 by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The documents included thousands of leaked files from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which revealed alleged illegal financial practices of officials and public figures from various countries. The claims made in the documents have been dismissed by many officials, mentioned in them. Mossack Fonseca has refused to confirm whether the leaked papers were authentic, although it claimed that it had been hacked.