Offshore tax havens: Efforts to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs make this a good time to act against these ghettos of secrecy and dirty money – Brian Wilson

It’s curious how some scandals occasionally float into public view, then disappear while nothing changes. The anomaly of secrecy ghettoes that flourish under the Crown comes into that category.

British Virgin Islands is one of a number of tax havens frequented by the super-rich (Picture: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Dreamweaver)
British Virgin Islands is one of a number of tax havens frequented by the super-rich (Picture: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Dreamweaver)

For decades, there has been a “something must be done” campaign about places like the British Virgin Islands which, for some purposes, are supposedly as British as Kent or Perthshire but, for others, are global protectorates of crime and corruption.

This week, a Foreign Office minister scuttled off to the Caribbean for “urgent discussions on how sanctions against Russian oligarchs can be implemented”. A little late, you might think.

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On past form, normal business will resume once the shooting stops. A test will come in legislation going through Parliament to oblige offshore companies with UK property to disclose beneficial owners.

There is also a deadline for the British Virgin Islands to launch a public register showing ultimate owners of companies registered there. In practice, will anything change? It hasn’t in the face of previous measures – which is why the Russians are heading there.

We often hear of things that will “never be the same again” because of Ukraine. If this turns out to be one of them, the only tears shed would be from those whose wealth requires secrecy and the amoral industry that serves them.

The current governor of the British Virgin Islands started out as a Scottish solicitor and lecturer at Aberdeen University. I’m sure John Rankin would agree that, whether in Buchan or the BVI, it’s easier to catch the crooks if you know who they are.

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