paper with words anti-money laundering

A collection of bankers, lawyers, anti-money laundering (AML) experts and others are calling on the federal government to create a publicly accessible registry of beneficial ownership information to help combat financial crime and ease compliance with AML reporting requirements.

Group members include the Investment Association of Canada (IIAC), Transparency International Canada, Canadians For Tax Fairness and the Canadian Labour Congress.

In a letter to Bill Morneau, federal finance minister, the group calls on the feds to “advocate for a publicly accessible pan-Canadian company registry of beneficial owners in upcoming conversations with provinces and territories, and to outline a consultation timetable to explore all registry options (including a publicly accessible registry) in Budget 2019.”

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) found that Canada wasn’t fully compliant with global standards in terms of beneficial ownership transparency, and in the availability of beneficial ownership information, the letter notes.

“As we have observed increasingly complex corporate and legal structures used to hide proceeds of crime, it is clear that collecting and publicly disclosing key beneficial ownership information would serve as a powerful tool to combat money laundering,” the group says.

Disclosing the information would reduce the compliance burden for firms that have reporting obligations under AML rules, says the group, and help tax authorities and law enforcement agencies investigate financial offences.

The letter also calls for strong verification measures and enforcement measures. “There should be meaningful administrative monetary penalties and criminal penalties for non-compliance, including offences of perjury for false declaration of shareholder information or beneficial ownership information,” it says.

“A publicly accessible registry coupled with robust measures for verification and penalties can maximally deter the flow of money laundering into the Canadian economy. Moreover, by harnessing open government to curb illicit financial flows, Canada will bolster the integrity of its economy in concert with U.K. and E.U. members and can publicly display its efforts as a leader in anti-corruption when it co-hosts the Open Government Partnership Summit (OGP) in May 2019,” the letter says.

Read the letter here.