Ottawa moves to create business ownership registries to prevent financial crime – National
The federal Liberal Party is moving ahead with its plan to form a Canadian government register ownership after promising to increase transparency about who owns and controls corporations.
industry minister Francois-Philippe Champagne tabled legislation that would create an ownership registry in favor of the company.
The future registry is expected to have the goal of making it easier to identify the owners of corporations that launder money, commit financial crimes, or evade taxes.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s authorization letter to Champagne following the last federal election includes instructions for creating such a registry.
The Liberal Party’s 2021 budget sets aside $2.1 million over two years “to support the rollout of a publicly accessible corporate beneficial ownership registry by 2025.”
But the Liberals’ confidence and supply agreement with the New Democrats, signed a year ago, requires a faster timeline.
In that agreement, in which the NDP backs the government on key votes in exchange for motion on the NDP’s priorities, the federal government commits to implementing registration by the end of 2023.
In a statement, NDP finance critic Daniel Blaikie said his party pushed for the creation of a registry “to make it harder for wealthy tax evaders, corrupt businessmen and financiers” sanctioned Russian oligarchs hide their assets in Canada.”
The federal government held public consultations in 2020 with a wide range of stakeholders — including law enforcement, tax authorities, and industry associations — and found nearly all agreed with the the idea of setting up a registry.
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During a technical press conference with reporters Wednesday night, a government official said the new registry will make it easier for law enforcement to track down people suspected of financial crimes because of their information. ownership information has been made public.
“One of the advantages of a centralized registry is that the police can start their investigation without exposing… the bad guys,” said Martin Simard, senior director of competition policy, bankruptcy. and business in Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
It will also increase accountability, he said, as information will be public and available to citizens, journalists and nonprofits.
If the bill passes, corporations will have some time to learn about the new registry and provide the information needed to comply, Simard said. Companies found to be non-compliant will be fined $5,000.
Directors, officers and shareholders who undermine the new regime in the future will be fined $200,000, six months in prison, or both.
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