Press Releases

Vance Center and Transparency International Panama Encourage Reform on Registration of Ultimate Beneficial Ownership

Restricted access to the new ultimate beneficial ownership registry in Panama could hinder effective prevention of money laundering and corruption, the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and Transparency International Panama have found in a report. Unveiling Corporate Structures: An International View on Registries of Ultimate Beneficial Owners, available in English and Spanish, reviews the legislation and regulations for registries of ultimate beneficial owners of companies in Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Cayman Islands and the State of Delaware in the United States. It provides key recommendations for implementing Panama’s new legislation to ensure effectiveness and public confidence.

The Panamanian Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom, Panamanian Chapter of Transparency International, commissioned the report to improve the public debate and ensure a legally-sound basis for Panama’s new Registries of Ultimate Beneficial Owners. TI Panama’s mission is to contribute to deepening the democratic system through permanent citizen participation. It focuses on strengthening government accountability and transparency and reducing corruption at local, regional and national levels.

Panama regularly has come under criticism internationally as uncooperative in the fight against money laundering. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has placed it, and it remains today, on the list of countries requiring special attention by the international community for not adequately combating money laundering. Panamanian Law 129, analyzed in the report, is a recent effort to establish the regulatory framework for a comprehensive registry of ultimate beneficial ownership, enabling regulators to access the data of resident agents and aid in preventing money laundering and financing terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The report compares how various countries have defined ultimate beneficial ownership, established a mandatory registry, identifying basic information and responsible persons, and imposed obligations, monitoring and sanctions on lawyers and other service providers.

The report supports Panama’s pursuit of transparency in three types of cases that have posed systemic challenges in the past: money laundering in and from Panama; drug trafficking, especially illicit financial flows; and the hijacking of political interests through illegal or questionable donations to parties and candidates. Panama’s new legislation will require implementation in line with global trends towards transparency, especially regarding ultimate beneficial owners, as the report seeks to promote.

The report follows other Vance Center anticorruption efforts in the region, including the report Corruption in times of COVID-19: a regional perspective on public procurement.

Read the full report here: English, Spanish