British overseas territories, like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, will have to post public registries disclosing ownership of companies based there.
The registries must be posted by the end of 2020. The House of Commons added a rider ordering 14 overseas territories to disclose share ownership as part of an anti-money laundering bill that cleared the Commons on May 1.
David Cameron, the former British prime minister, called anonymous shell companies in tax havens the getaway cars of money launders and tax evaders.
The requirement to post share ownership does not apply to the Channel Islands, which have a different legal relationship to Britain as crown dependencies.
The prime minister of Bermuda reacted angrily to the House of Commons vote in a speech on May 4, as did leaders of some other affected former British colonies, calling the move overreach by Britain. The current British prime minister, Theresa May, had favored leaving decisions on secrecy to local voters in the affected overseas territories, but she lacked the votes in the House of Commons to enforce her position. The politics shifted after the attempted poisoning in Britain of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. The incident brought renewed scrutiny into the use of Britain by Russian oligarchs to launder dirty money. David Cameron had committed Britain to open share registries before leaving office in 2016.
A new anti-money laundering directive from the European Union in June is expected to require all EU countries to set up public registries.