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REVEALED: the UK’S 11,000 shell companies no-one knows who owns.

Hats off to the #PandoraPapers team that’s exposed the sheer scale of the tax avoidance by 35 current and former global leaders – including a prominent Tory donor who says the BBC contributed to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign and “was involved in one of Europe’s biggest corruption scandals”.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak obviously defended the government’s record on tackling tax avoidance as “very strong”. What a load of nonsense.

Corruption flourishes in the dark and so one reason London is beloved is that it’s so easy to create shell companies without declaring who actually owns them. Behind this fog of mystery, company directors can get up to no good.

Now, Boris Johnson claims he’s cracking down on this sort of thing. Really? In answers to my parliamentary questions a junior minister has slipped out that in fact over 11,000 companies have still not listed – as they are required to – a ‘Person of Significant Control’. And despite this only 119 convictions for the offence has been brought. Pathetic.

As the excellent Duncan Hames at Transparency International, points out, the summer’s G7 communique yesterday recognised “the need for action on corruption, including… tackling the misuse of shell companies” (para 48). Yet there’s no legislation this session to implement the Companies House white paper reforms that would get a grip of this.

If this Government is serious about tackling corroruption it’s time to bring new laws to the floor of the Commons. Now.


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