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World Anti-Corruption Day: Will Europe choose to end the opacity of shell companies and trusts?

Brussels, December 9, 2014 – On International Anti-Corruption Day, The ONE Campaign is calling on the EU to make public who is behind European companies and trusts, as part of the Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) which is currently under negotiation.

This proposed law could stop anonymous shell companies from enabling the payment of bribes, tax evasion and money laundering by providing anonymity for the real beneficiaries of these illicit financial flows. These flows mean critical resources for Europe and developing countries – which could be used to boost health and education – are lost to corrupt practices.

Establishing a public register of the ‘beneficial owners’ of companies and trusts would be a simple and cost-effective solution to address this scandal. It would reveal who is behind these structures, deterring illegal practices and facilitating prosecution.

Currently the negotiations are heating up, with a choice between measures that could boost transparency, and others that would harm the fight against corruption.

The European Parliament almost unanimously recognized the critical nature of a public register of beneficial ownership to fight corruption effectively. MEPs Krišjānis Kariņš and Judith Sargentini have been defending this measure, yet the Council, divided on the matter, is not yet on board.

Some Member States, including France, Denmark and the Czech Republic, are in favour of public registers, while others such as Germany, Spain and Poland are not keen to make that move. More and more Member States are leaning towards stricter transparency measures, such as Denmark which recently changed its position towards supporting public registers.

Tamira Gunzburg , Director of ONE Brussels, said: “The divide in Council threatens a directive that could make Europe a trailblazer in the fight against corruption. Yet with a growing number of Member States opting for strict transparency measures, there is no reason to let this golden opportunity pass by.

“MEPs like Krišjānis Kariņš and Judith Sargentini are doing a great job holding the line on its call for publicly accessible registers of who owns companies and trusts. The European Parliament has shown the way and should not let go of the reins on a measure that would mean a leap forward in the global fight against corruption.”


Notes to editors:

  1. ONE published the “Trillion Dollar Scandal” report to denounce the impact of tax evasion and corruption in developing countries.
  2. According to a recent OECD report , 75% of global corruption involves intermediate legal vehicles such as shell companies and trusts.
  3. 40 high-profile investigative journalists signed a letter to EU President Jean Claude Juncker in support of greater transparency and asking him to ensure the AMLD makes public who is behind companies and trusts.