Organizations unite to call for Canada to take swift action to end secret companies

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Canada must take this opportunity to demonstrate global leadership and implement a public, central registry of the beneficial owners of companies and trusts

Ottawa, Canada – December 9th, 2016

Anonymous companies are the getaway vehicles of corruption. Today, over twenty diverse organizations from within and outside of Canada, unite to call on the Government of Canada to take action and create a central public registry of companies and trusts. By taking this action, Canada will show national and global leadership in the efforts to shed light on anonymous companies – companies whose ownership is difficult or impossible to discern. Major corruption scandals in the last decade have one thing in common: they involve individuals that use a complex web of companies and other legal entities to obscure their identity.

Anonymous companies pose a big problem in Canada. A recent evaluation by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force states that in Canada “(l)egal persons and arrangements are at a high risk of misuse, and that risk is not mitigated.” Further, the Panama
Papers reveal that Mossack Fonseca marketed Canada as a good place to register a secret company.

“In Canada, you need to provide more information to get a library card than to set up a company,” said Alesia Nahirny, Executive Director of Transparency International Canada.

“No Canadian wants Canada to become a hotspot for tax evasion and money laundering, yet that is the risk we face,” stated Publish What You Pay Canada Director Claire Woodside.

“Creating a central public registry of the beneficial ownership of companies and other legal entities is global best practice. It will underpin a strong accountability regime, where authorities can more effectively identify those who evade taxes and launder money.”

“Anonymous companies are routinely at the heart of tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance schemes, money laundering, and fraud,” commented Dennis Howlett, Executive Director of Canadians for Tax Fairness. “Further, they serve no legitimate purpose.”

A central registry of companies and trusts that is made available to the public in open data format will help to speed up investigations; increase government revenues by enabling more effective efforts to crack down on tax evaders; help businesses meet their anti-money laundering obligations; and enable more effective public accountability.

“Momentum is building globally to stop the secrecy behind company ownership that enables the corrupt and other criminals to get away with crimes that rip off innocent people, businesses and the government,” said Stefanie Ostfeld of Global Witness. “At least nine countries have or are in the process of creating public registries of beneficial ownership, the European Union already requires this disclosure and is considering making it public and many more countries are considering moving in this direction.”

Beneficial ownership transparency does not just benefit society, but also the business community. “Corporate transparency is an important part of any good business community.

Business has a responsibility to the society within which it exists and having clear ownership is an important piece of this,” said Mike Gifford of OpenConcept Consulting Inc.

Download the letter here.

Media Contacts:
Claire Woodside, Publish What You Pay Canada, [email protected], +1 (613) 7943536, @pwypcanada

Dennis Howlett, Canadians for Tax Fairness, [email protected], +1 (613) 863-3670, @Cdntaxfairness

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