Examination of Witness

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:22 pm on 19th November 2020.

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Duncan Hames:

I think trusts are intended to be in the scope of the registration of overseas entities Bill. That is definitely something required by the fifth anti-money laundering directive as well, so we should consider them within scope. Whether we have yet got that working, I am not so confident. For example, if we take something that I am sure is of interest to you—Scottish limited partnerships—the Financial Action Task Force report, which the Government are very pleased with, noted that there remains a weakness in terms of scope for abuse of that corporate structure. I should acknowledge that those are regulated by UK law, not by decisions made in Scotland. Those partnerships can be partnerships with two corporate entities—so, no human personality. If those two corporate entities are registered in jurisdictions where beneficial ownership is not clear—it is not public—we essentially have a UK entity that has got around all of the strictures that the Government are very proud of, in terms of the transparency that the UK’s own registry demands.

There are other issues with having corporate partners of a legal partnership. Obviously, it all comes down to accountability. It is very important if we want to be able to hold corporate entities accountable for their role in economic crime. I am afraid that many such complexities remain to be addressed. We cannot just take the bits we like when a report like that is presented.

The Minister is correct: the UK outcome was very favourable compared with other FATF evaluations. I hope, by the way, it will give the Treasury the confidence next time around to invite civil society representatives to give evidence to the FATF assessors. None the less, FATF came up with a number of things that it identified needed to be addressed, and the Government have a plan, but we seem to lack a timetable for implementing a number of these things. If the Minister is able to give us a timetable for when the legislation to introduce measures such as robo, which is in the economic crime plan, will be introduced, I think we would all be very glad of it.