Hunt for oligarch assets adds new urgency to Canada’s plan for beneficial ownership registry – Financial Post

Malcolm Aboud

April 6, 2022

Western sanctions directed at companies and wealthy individuals with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin are renewing calls for a beneficial ownership registry in Canada. The purpose of this registry would be to help authorities navigate complex structures to identify the true owners of companies, trusts and other assets such as real estate. In an interview with the Financial Post, Osler’s Malcolm Aboud, counsel, Litigation at Osler, discusses what he sees as the benefits of such a system.

“The thing that this registry is intended to address is the use of corporate vehicles to obscure the ultimate beneficial owner of funds and property,” says Malcolm. “And that would be whether it’s somebody engaging in money laundering or somebody that is, you know, a billionaire that doesn’t want it known where their assets are.”

Oligarchs are known to control their holdings through complex corporate structures. Assets can be readily shifted to jurisdictions that do not require ownership disclosure or are beyond the reach of sanctions. In other cases, registration is delegated to close associates using their names.

Other countries which are moving towards greater systems of transparency are facing potential privacy concerns. “Ultimately, there is a privacy interest in personal, financial and business information, which should be balanced against the degree of access necessary or in order to guard against these types of illicit actions,” says Malcolm.

“There are legitimate reasons for private corporations. And there’s a balance to be struck in terms of how much public information there should be over the private affairs of Canadian owners of corporations.”

Read the full article by author Barbara Shecter posted on April 4, 2022