Australia: Feds junk plans to unmask nominee directors
26 Apr 2021

The Morrison government has walked away from plans to unmask nominee directors, a move experts claim will entrench Australia as a safe haven for laundered money and the proceeds of corruption.

Australia committed to introducing a so-called “beneficial ownership register” in 2016 and again in 2018 with expectations the reform would be delivered as part of an overhaul of the companies registration database.

But Serena Lillywhite, the chief executive of Transparency International Australia, said she had been told by Treasury that the government had no appetite for this commitment, and was not open to pursuing it.

This is one of the biggest loopholes in our corporate register and there is a complete lack of political will to do anything about it,” she said.

“Money laundering in the property sector and more generally is such a huge problem for Australia and this reform would have gone some way to addressing this issue. Knowing who sits behind the wheel and who the real company beneficiaries are is a fundamental step in tackling money laundering and other corporate misconduct.”

A spokesman for Senator Jane Hume, who has responsibility for the area, refused to answer questions on the government’s promise to deliver a publicly available beneficial ownership register that would make clear the ultimate owners in control of a company.

“The government is committed to improving the transparency of information around beneficial ownership and control of companies available to relevant authorities,” the spokesman said.

“Australia is committed to meeting international standards to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.”

Backing away from its two earlier commitments leaves Australia out of step with the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.

By Angus Grigg, The Australian Financial Review, 25 April 2021

Read more at The Australian Financial Review

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