Deputy Chief Executive (Interim)
The ONE Campaign
Adrian Lovett currently serves as ONE’s Deputy Chief Executive (Interim), taking a cross-organizational role during a period of leadership transition in ONE. He joined ONE in August 2011 as its Europe Executive Director, leading the organization’s work to influence governments and build popular support across Europe for the fight against extreme poverty.
Time to Deliver on Trusts
Developing countries lose a trillion dollars each year as a result of illicit financial flows. Some of this money is hidden in a range of financial vehicles which allow the real, or “beneficial”, owners to hide their identities. While increasingly governments accept the case for introducing public registers to show the beneficial owners of companies, there has been significantly less progress on trusts. The Anti-Corruption Summit should be a moment for governments to outline their commitment to transparency around trust ownership too.
When European governments considered this issue in 2014/15 during the negotiations for the EU's 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, they agreed to capture beneficial ownership information for a subset of trusts that engage with tax systems. However, the public will have no access to this information and it is unclear what proportion of trusts will be captured by this requirement. And outside of the EU, governments have been very quiet on this agenda.
So long as trusts act as a loophole that criminals and other corrupt individuals can exploit to hide their identities, the beneficial ownership agenda will be half-baked at best. Indeed, the progress towards public registers to capture the beneficial ownership of companies would be undermined by the lack of ambition on trusts. It can be the case that companies are owned by trusts and people seeking to hide their identities can simply switch from setting up anonymous shell companies to setting up trusts and similarly opaque financial instruments. Governments attending the Anti-Corruption Summit should act together and outline their commitment to the principle that public registers of companies should be matched by similar public registers of trusts and other financial instruments. Governments should also outline a clear action plan for delivering specifically on public registers of trusts.
As the host of the Anti-Corruption Summit, Prime Minister David Cameron has shown strong leadership. He must now lead again and commit to a public register to capture the beneficial owners of trusts, both in the UK and in the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. Only this level of action will ensure that the UK maintains its leadership in the global fight against corruption.