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France to Publicize Beneficial Ownership Information

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

France intends to put in place "as soon as possible" a central registry of information on the beneficial owners of companies and trusts, which will be open to the public.

The pledge was made by the French Government as part of its action plan to tackle corruption, which was announced at last week's Anti-Corruption Summit in London. The measure is intended to "ensure that information on beneficial owners of companies, trusts, foundations, shell companies, and other entities or legal arrangements are fully accessible to tax administrations, law enforcement agencies and financial intelligence units (FIUs)."

Finance Minister Michel Sapin said: "This summit is located at a key moment and we [have] the opportunity to demonstrate our collective commitment to promote a new era transparency. To effectively fight against international corruption, we must 'expose' the corruption, we must 'expose' the financial flows that seek to hide. This can not be done without a strong commitment to international cooperation."

Additionally, the French action plan called on countries to implement centralized registries of bank accounts "ensuring full access for FIUs and prosecution authorities to these records, quickly and respecting data protection, in order to more effectively combat financial crime, including corruption."

France also said that it supports the European Commission's proposal to require large companies to make public their country-by-country transfer pricing reports, although a number of EU member states, including Germany, oppose this idea.

France is one of the more than 20 jurisdictions taking part in a pilot scheme to share beneficial ownership information, which involves several EU member states and UK offshore territories. It has also committed to exchange financial account information with foreign tax authorities from 2017 under the OECD Common Reporting Standard.