OTTAWA: How many shell companies exist in Canada? How many legal trusts? Who are the beneficial owners protected by such unnecessary veils of secrecy? No one knows, because in most cases there is no legal requirement to disclose actual ownership even to regulators. In fact, more information is required to get a library card than to set up a company in most jurisdictions in Canada.
What we do know is that Canada ranks near the bottom among our OECD partners in terms of corporate disclosure requirements to fight money laundering and tax evasion. A recent report from Transparency International detailed the dismal situation and why our country has become a haven for dubious offshore property speculation.
“The Canadian government must take immediate steps to require all companies and trusts in the country to identify their beneficial owners to ensure Canada does not become a haven for corrupt capital,” warns Transparency International Canada executive director Alesia Nahirny.
Canada is one of the few developed countries that does not require the identities of company directors to be verified, or any information on shareholders. In most provinces it is legal to use “nominee” directors or shareholders without disclosing that they are acting on someone else’s behalf.