Madrid, 7 April 2016 – In the wake of the massive Panama Papers scandal, Access Info Europe and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) have released a report showing that in most European jurisdictions data on company ownership is almost impossible for the public to obtain.
For an investigative journalist tracking down money laundering or organised crime, the main obstacle to accessing company registration information in Europe is financial: the register can be obtained for prices ranging from €75,000 in the Netherlands to € 286,000 in Estonia; single record costs range from €2.33 in France to €767.00 in Russia.
This situation endures in spite of repeated promises in fora such as the G7, G20 and Open Government Partnership to open up company data. Of 32 countries surveyed, the only two exceptions are the UK, which has a fully open company register available for download since just since June 2015, and Denmark, where the register may be accessed by those with a Danish Electronic ID. Not one of the remaining 30 countries provides free of charge bulk access to registers.
“The Panama papers investigation shows the immense power of transparency allied to rigorous investigative journalism. Making company registers accessible – at low or no cost – would be a great way to build on that success. It’s time promises on open data were kept, and governments showed that their rhetoric can be matched by action,” stated Drew Sullivan and Paul Radu, co-founders of the OCCRP.
The report It’s none of your business! identifies a total of 10 obstacles to accessing company register data. Another significant obstacle is that most countries don’t permit searches by the name of the company owner. Only Sweden, Ukraine and the UK offer free record-by-record searches by name.
“European governments are complicit in blocking investigative journalists in their work uncovering criminal activities, money laundering, and tax evasion,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.
“The reality is a seriously skewed playing field, with company ownership data shielded from public view in Europe. Access is only for those with the ability to pay – law firms, financial businesses, and the like – the kinds of people the Panama Papers have shown to be abusing the system,” added Darbishire.
Access Info Europe and the investigative journalists working with the OCCRP have litigation ongoing in a number of countries to try to obtain the company register with access to information (freedom of information) laws. There are cases underway in Slovenia and in Germany for the Berlin Company Register. A minor victory in the Czech Republic secured access to the register but without the names of the owners, and an appeal is ongoing.
For further details, you can also visit the Company Register Transparency campaign interactive webpage.
For more information please contact:
Helen Darbishire | Access Info Europe
Send an e-mail or call +34 913 656 558