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EU risks failing to tackle financial secrecy

Brussels – Amidst a new outbreak of the LuxLeaks scandal, EU member states are undermining new measures that could tackle financial secrecy. Are they serious about fighting financial opacity or merely blowing hot air?

Parliament’s call for transparency at risk of dilution

The EU Anti Money Laundering Directive is currently being negotiated and the Council of the EU is blocking measures to render public who owns and controls anonymous shell companies and trusts.

Anonymous shell companies and trusts are often used to facilitate corruption and tax evasion. Making public who is behind them would put an end to these damaging practices. The European Parliament is almost unanimously in favour of the measure.

Tamira Gunzburg, Brussels Director of The ONE Campaign said: “It is unbelievable that amidst the outbreaks of scandals resulting from financial secrecy, the Council is trying to dilute the Parliament’s call for public disclosure of who is hiding behind anonymous companies and trusts.

The momentum for transparency is growing every day. We cannot let this historic opportunity slip by settling for anything less than full public access for anyone without exception.”

Presidency rushing through an inadequate deal

Though sceptical at first, the number of Member States calling for a public register of the so-called ‘beneficial owners’ of companies has quadrupled over the last few months. Yet in an effort to land a deal before the end of its presidency, the Italian Presidency is putting the Parliament under pressure to accept a diluted deal.

This deal would allow Member States to restrict access to their registers of beneficial ownership. This would result in an uneven playing field across Europe. Worse still, it creates a place to hide for those who wish to remain hidden from the public eye.

Tamira Gunzburg concluded: “Transparency is not negotiable. Either it is or it isn’t. There is nothing in between. The Parliament has set the bar high and should not give in to the Presidency’s pressure to push through an insufficient measure.”

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For more info, contact Heleen van Pelt, +32 497 404 505; [email protected]

Notes to editors:

  • The EU Anti Money Laundering Directive is currently in trialogue, with the next meeting scheduled for December 16th.
  • MEPs Krišjānis Kariņš (Latvia, EPP) and Judith Sargentini (Netherlands, Greens/EFA) are negotiating on behalf of the European Parliament.
  • According to calculations by ONE, 1 trillion dollars are siphoned out of developing countries every year as a result of corruption, tax evasion, and other illegal activities.