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The Still-Hidden Names

In response to:

Panama: The Hidden Trillions from the October 27, 2016 issue

To the Editors:

Our research at Transparency International strongly disagrees with the statement made in the recent review of the Panama Papers [“Panama: The Hidden Trillions,” NYR, October 27] that “most respectable banks will set up accounts for offshore companies only if their ultimate beneficial owner is named.”

We have found significant weaknesses in the legislation of leading G20 countries because many fail to require banks to adequately identify the beneficial owners of accounts. For example, in a number of countries including Germany, the US, and Brazil there is no legal requirement for financial institutions to verify beneficial ownership information using independent and reliable sources. A recent review of Canada by the global anti-money-laundering standard-setter Financial Action Task Force also found that “little is done by Financial Institutions to verify the accuracy of beneficial ownership information.”

While the increased attention on the offshore world resulting from the publication of the Panama Papers is welcome and long overdue, the world’s major economies also have a long way to go before they can claim to be setting a good example.

Max Heywood
Transparency International
Berlin, Germany