Failure to Prevent an Economic Criminal Offence

Part of Criminal Finances Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 21st February 2017.

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Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley 3:30 pm, 21st February 2017

I am grateful to the Minister for making those points, but we should be careful that we do not focus only on one example. There might be good commercial reasons in that case and it might just be a rumour from that country. I was highlighting the question of whether there are sufficient resources in the various law enforcement bodies, either here or elsewhere, to pursue inquiries through the labyrinth of corporate structures that tend to be involved when it comes to the most complex money-laundering or corruption situations.

The advantage of transparency, and one reason why we have chosen to have it here, is that it puts the information into the public domain so that various NGOs or other bodies can do some of the initial investigation, piece together the corporate chains and links, break the corporate veils, and thereby work out where this money is coming from and where it has got to. I am a little sceptical that our law enforcement bodies will ever have the resources to start that process in the vast majority of cases. If we can get the information into the public domain and give people the chance to trace it all the way through and find the answers, that new information can be used by the law enforcement bodies. That is what we are trying to achieve, because enabling transparency will make it much harder to hide the money through a complex structure going through multiple territories and however many different trusts and entities.

It is entirely right and welcome that law enforcement bodies will have timely access to information, but that will not be enough to enable the full tackling of this scourge that we would like to see. That is why I support the effort that has been made with new clause 6 to find a way to send a very strong signal to our territories that we want transparent registers. That is the right thing to do and it is the right direction of travel for the regimes in question. We want our territories to take the lead, rather than waiting for everybody else to do something first. Let us set an example and move first, and not wait for the herd.