Britain to overhaul public company registry in dirty money crackdown

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LONDON, (Reuters) – Britain is moving ahead with plans for a sweeping overhaul of its public registry of companies in a bid to transform it into an active gatekeeper of corporate information and crack down harder on “dirty money”, a government source said.

The government is likely to introduce a new Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill to parliament on Thursday to tackle problems such as the abuse of UK registered companies by international money laundering networks and fraudsters, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The move comes around six months after Britain introduced the delayed Economic Crime Bill to try to “hobble” Russian President Vladimir Putin, as lawmakers across the political spectrum called for greater efforts to stem the flow of Russian cash into London amid an escalating war in Ukraine.

Under the latest planned legislation, the Companies House register will receive “significant new powers” to challenge and decline dubious information and make it easier to report suspicious activity to law enforcement, the source said.

The register would be “sufficiently resourced,” the source said, without elaborating.

Companies House is Britain’s public registry of companies, their directors, significant shareholders who control the business and their financial filings.

Anti-corruption groups have long called for reforms to the registry to improve transparency and tackle corruption through shell firms. At the moment, companies can be owned by nominees and many do not file full financial statements.

Britain has also separately introduced a registry for overseas entities, although it gives anonymous foreign owners of property six months to reveal their real identities – a measure the opposition Labour Party has said gives them too much time to move assets elsewhere.

($1 = 0.8825 pounds)

(Writing by Kirstin Ridley, editing by Deepa Babington)

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