Nearly 400,000 British companies evade anti-money laundering checks

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Nearly 400,000 British companies do not, will not or cannot say who controls them, according to research carried out by openDemocracy.

In 2016, the UK’s more than four million firms were ordered to identify who controls them, in an attempted crackdown on anonymously owned shell structures often used to wash dirty money through the international financial system.

However, a detailed analysis of millions of filings at Britain’s corporate registry, Companies House, shows almost 10 per cent of UK firms still do not declare who their beneficiaries are – often thanks to what campaigners believe is a legal loophole that could facilitate crime, corruption and tax evasion.

Most forms of British corporate entities have to name a “person of significant control” – a beneficiary with a stake of 25 per cent or more. The idea was introduced in 2013 by David Cameron, the then prime minister, who pledged to attack the “small minority” of companies that had “hidden their business dealings behind a complicated web of shell companies”.

But openDemocracy’s analysis shows almost 400,000 businesses still under opaque ownership with no named PSC, exactly what the Tories said they wanted to avoid.

The 25 per cent threshold means that vast numbers of companies are able to leave their beneficiaries unidentified, without explanation, and perfectly legally. Other companies illegally ignore the requirements, or say they cannot comply with them.

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