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Welcome for new EU move against tax evasion, money laundering & corruption

20 February 2014 - A major crime-fighting proposal which today won the backing of the European Parliament should embolden the government to declare their support for the initiative, says Christian Aid.

Two key committees of MEPs voted this morning (Thursday) for all EU countries to set up public registers of the flesh and blood owners of millions of companies operating within their borders.

‘When companies’ real owners’ names become public, it will be far harder for money launderers, tax evaders, bribe payers and other criminals to hide from justice behind the companies they control,’ Sorley McCaughey, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Christian Aid said today.

But so far the government has failed to support the introduction of a register that would be publicly available.

‘Making the register publicly accessible is essential. Such information cannot be the preserve only of shareholders or those with the resources to apply for such information. Any member of the public should be able to obtain such information. This is the gold standard of transparency and the basis on which the Revenue Authority operates in many other areas,’ Mr. McCaughey added.

The reform will now be considered by the Council of Ministers, which is made up of EU countries’ leaders. It is at the Council that Ireland will have an opportunity to declare their position.

‘While up until now Ireland has not felt able to support a public register, we hope that the Parliament’s decision today will give Irish government the courage at the Council to declare support for the highest level of transparency,’ Mr. McCaughey said.

Mr. McCaughey also cautioned that if and when European countries introduce their own public registers of companies’ real owners, the information in them must be easily obtainable by people all over the world.

‘For the registers to do their job against criminals, the information they contain must be open to everyone,’ he said.

‘That’s because companies incorporated in Europe do business all over the world, including in some of the poorest countries which are most vulnerable to abuses such as tax evasion and corruption. People in those countries need to see who is responsible for the companies’ activities. However, the restrictions and fees which some have suggested could make it impossible for people living in poverty to access this information.’

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
• Sorley McCaughey, Head of Advocacy, Christian Aid Ireland. Tel: (353) 087 062 0062 or email smccaughey@christian-aid.org
• Florence Mutesasira, Communications & Media Officer. Tel: (353) 086 160 9405 / 01 775 8085 or email fmutesasira@christian-aid.org


Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document ‘From Inspiration to Impact’ outlines how we set about this task.

3. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit www.christianaid.ie