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Saturday 21 September 2019
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Faris: Companies Bill exposes true owners

Attorney General Faris al Rawi
Attorney General Faris al Rawi

ATTORNEY General Faris Al-Rawi turned school teacher yesterday to give a lesson in the law to pupils from ASJA Boys College, San Fernando, visiting the House of Representatives.

He used schoolboy terms to explain the Companies (Amendment) Bill 2019 that seeks to expose the real owners (beneficial owners) of companies who hide behind individuals (legal owners) who publicly front as directors of companies.

“Under the laws of TT, the beneficial owner or fair owner or equitable owner, trumps the legal owner.

“An example I gave a while ago to the young men from ASJA with us this afternoon.

“Your beneficial owner is to be found this way.

“If you give someone $1,000 and tell them ‘Buy something for me’, for instance a pair of shoes, a school-bag, a collection of things.”

The AG said the receipt that came back showed somebody else as owning the item, rather than the person giving the money.

“Now legally-speaking it appears as though the person whose name is on the receipt is the legal owner, but in fairness the person who gave the money to that person is the fair or equitable or beneficial owner.” Al-Rawi said the example also applied to ownership of shares in companies.

“The ownership of shares in companies is a materially important thing.

“If you are fighting a battle against the proceeds of crime, money-laundering, hidden wealth, tax evasion, you’ll find money finds itself in three places - companies, cash or land. Knowing who the true owner of money is becomes a very immediate and important obligation.” Saying that for one year TT had 104,168 registered companies of which 86,190 were active, he said 20 per cent were inactive.

“Companies can be used to carry out crime.”

He said $1 billion in cocaine was found in juice cans, shipped by crooks in the name of a defunct company sourced from the Companies Register. “That’s to tell you how this Companies Bill applies to certain things.”

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