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Members of the public line up outside the Ministry of Finance, Inland Revenue Division, on Government Campus, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, to beat the tax amnesty which ends later this month

The Trinidad and Tobago Extractive industries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI) has launched a beneficial ownership register for oil, gas and mining companies which report to it.

This follows the Companies (Amendment) Act 2019, which addressed pitfalls in the 1995 Companies Act and made it mandatory that all companies declare their beneficial ownership in order to counteract tax evasion, terrorist financing, and money laundering,

The beneficial ownership register developed by the TTEITI serves as a free, public repository of key information on oil, gas and mining companies in Trinidad and Tobago paving the way for a more open and accountable management of revenues from natural resources according to the TTEITI.

The register includes information about the beneficial owners of several extractive companies including the names of persons, registered addresses and official Board of Inland Revenue company number. It also provides the names of any politically exposed persons associated with the reporting companies.

In a media release the TTEITI argued that for many years it has been advocating to ensure that the country’s natural resources are used to benefit all citizens, and that both the government and extractive companies are transparent about the management of tax and royalty payments.

“The TTEITI beneficial ownership register of extractive companies is a learning opportunity for the government which plans to create a national beneficial ownership register of all companies. Such a national beneficial ownership register will be a historic milestone in the battle against financial crime, but more needs to be done before Trinidad and Tobago can finally join other countries around the world, and specifically in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the global effort to tackle illicit finance,” the release read.

It insisted that the benefits of increasing the transparency of beneficial ownership information are well documented. Public registers help shine a light on hidden corporate structures that can be exploited to launder the proceeds of corruption, hide conflicts of interest, improperly win lucrative government contracts, and evade tax payments.

The TTEITI said when it comes to the oil, gas, and mining sectors, the loss of such tax revenues for a country can add up quickly. It has been estimated that up to US$1 trillion is siphoned out of developing countries in lost tax revenues through shell companies that hide their beneficial owners every year.

The TTEITI said it hoped that the Trinidad and Tobago government will use this as an opportunity to align its efforts with those of other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, and Suriname, which have all been moving—albeit each at a different pace—towards creating national beneficial ownership registers of all companies.