THE amendments to the Companies Act which will mandate companies to fully disclose the true owner of their business is a “step in the right direction,” to a full Beneficial Ownership registry, according to TTEITI chairman, Sherwin Long.
Long made the statement at the connected Commonwealth event held at the British High Commissioner’s residence at Beaumont Road, Maraval, last week Wednesday.
Long said TT has to be vigilant against all forms of corruption, adding that shell companies and secret owners of companies have had a link to corrupt practices which comes at a cost to the public in TT and around the world.
“The Panama Papers and Paradise Papers exposed all of these issues,” Long said.
One of the amendments to the Bill will mandate companies to prepare and maintain a register of board members who will have to share the amount and class of shares each member has. Before the amendments, it was only necessary for companies to disclose how many shares each board member had.
Another amendment proposes that a company should get information relating to all beneficial owners of companies in TT. Another proposal in the amendments to the Act would require that companies file annual returns in order to verify information at the Companies' Registry.
The amendments also include a suggestion that people who fail to comply in registering as a beneficial owner, should be slapped with a $10,000 fine.
After being debated in March, the amendments were assented by the president in early April.
Long said a registry such as one suggested in the amendments should be easily accessible by the public.
“For the EITI perspective we believe in having a free register as well as freely available. So you should not have to pay for it, and it should be made available to everyone. I should be able to sit at home and do research to see who are the people behind the actual companies,” Long said.