London: British police will soon be able to pierce the secrecy of certain tax havens, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday, as he sought to defuse pressure over his tax affairs linked to the so-called Panama Papers.
Britain is creating a list that reveals the identities of individuals who benefit from an investment even if it is held in the name of another person.
Cameron told the House of Commons that all British crown dependencies and overseas territories except Anguilla and Guernsey had already signed up to furnish the information.
These include areas such as the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, which are hot spots of offshore activity.
While information from the so-called register of beneficial ownership will not be made public, it will be available to police and law enforcement agencies in Britain and other countries, Cameron said in a statement to parliament.
“For the first time, UK police and law enforcement will be able to see exactly who really owns and controls every company” incorporated in such places, Cameron said.
“There’s no doubt that in some of these jurisdictions and countries there are some very bad things happening… and that’s why we want our authorities to go through everything they can.”
He did not provide a timetable for rolling out the register.
British charity Oxfam said Cameron “needs to do better than this”.
“The prime minister has said that sunlight is the best disinfectant when it comes to corruption,” it said in a statement.
Unless the registry is public, “it will be impossible for wider society — especially people in the world’s poorest countries — to hold businesses and governments to account,” it added.
Britain is also pushing for other countries around the world to commit to similar transparency measures.Next month, Britain’s government will host the world’s first international anti-corruption summit in London.
Cameron was making his first appearance before MPs since it emerged that he held an investment in a Bahamas-based offshore trust set up by his stockbroker father, a client of the law firm Mossack Fonseca at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal.
Cameron sold the units in the trust before he became prime minister in 2010.