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Public registry would end hidden ownership in private businesses

March 29, 2023 at 3:01 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Amendments introduced to the Business Corporations Act will create a new, public registry for beneficial owners to give British Columbians more confidence that B.C. private companies are not being used for money laundering or other criminal purposes.

“We’ve all heard about money launderers using numbered companies and complex corporate structures to hide their illegal activities and identities,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Finance. “By creating a registry for beneficial owners, we’re rooting out money laundering and strengthening how we detect, deter and relentlessly disrupt illegal activity in B.C.”

B.C.’s Expert Panel on Money Laundering in Real Estate report identified disclosure of beneficial ownership as the “single most important measure that can be taken to combat money laundering.”

This action expands on the existing requirement for private B.C. companies, incorporated under the act, to identify their beneficial owners and keep a list of these individuals in their corporate records. The registry is expected to be launched in 2025. Once it is up and running, businesses will be required to submit and confirm this information once per year and any time there is a significant change in ownership or control.

A centralized registry will provide law enforcement and other authorities with more efficient and timely access to information and give them access to information without the need to go directly to individuals for their corporate records. This change will prevent bad actors from being prematurely aware that they are being investigated.

By enabling the sharing of this information, the Province is setting up a foundation to support the establishment of a multi-jurisdictional beneficial ownership registry that can act as a single hub for corporate beneficial information.

“Money laundering isn’t a victimless crime – it fuels things like gang violence and the toxic drug crisis. We know money launderers work across jurisdictions – making their illegal activities harder to detect,” Conroy said. “We look forward to working with cross-jurisdictional partners to further combat money laundering throughout Canada, and potentially beyond.”

Through the creation of the new registry, the B.C. government is acting on a recommendation from the Cullen Commission to create a publicly accessible cross-jurisdictional registry of corporate beneficial ownership.

Quick Facts:

  • A beneficial owner is a person that holds, directly or indirectly, 25% or more of the shares of a corporation.
  • British Columbia is the second province, with Quebec as the first, to establish a central, partially public corporate beneficial ownership registry.
  • The creation of a beneficial ownership registry builds on the Land Owner Transparency Registry, to help end hidden ownership by providing a clearer picture of who is purchasing land in British Columbia.
  • The registry will follow similar privacy practices as the Land Owner Transparency Registry, and select only information that will be available to the public.

Learn More:

To learn more about the recommendations of the Cullen Commission final report, visit: https://www.cullencommission.ca/

To learn more about the Land Owner Transparency Registry, visit: https://landtransparency.ca

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