Failure to Prevent an Economic Criminal Offence

Part of Criminal Finances Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 21st February 2017.

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Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Crime and Prevention) 4:45 pm, 21st February 2017

I am most grateful for that clarification, Madam Deputy Speaker. Some of those on the list are the DOM-TOMs—the départements d’outre-mer and the territoires d’outre-mer—so there is a long list, including Guadeloupe and Martinique, but I shall move on.

It is a bit of a nonsense for the Conservative party to claim that the overseas territories and Crown dependencies are leading the world in financial transparency because of the creation of central registers if 46 other dependencies are doing that already. Not only have some been incredibly slow to catch up with the aforementioned countries, but some of our Crown dependencies and overseas territories are among the worst offenders and have not adopted centralised registers, let alone made them public. More accurately, they have adopted platforms.

The Government ask us to believe that the British Virgin Islands or the Cayman Islands will be able to police their own financial businesses by relying on those businesses, which facilitate crime. It is asking them to mark their own homework and to be judge and jury. Call me a cynic, but I doubt that that is a workable solution. Do we really believe that anonymous companies in the British Virgin Islands—which, for example, allowed the former wife of a Taiwanese President to illicitly purchase $1.6 million of property in Manhattan—would be capable of policing themselves?

There are several other examples. Would Alcoa, the world’s third largest producer of aluminium, be capable of policing itself when it has used an anonymous company in the British Virgin Islands to transfer millions of dollars in bribes to Bahraini officials? Would the anonymous British Virgin Islands-based company used by Teodorin Obiang, the son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, really be capable of policing itself when it allowed him to squirrel away $38 million of state money to buy a private jet? It was thanks to the US Justice Department that he was caught. The Government’s protestation that we are working with the territories and dependencies, and that we are 90% of the way there, is at best highly questionable.