The record probably has "an English gentleman" who has turned out to be the last holder - the person who actually controls the capital - of a Spanish company through a long chain of nine interposed companies, one of them domiciled in one of the Channel Islands considered a tax haven by Gestha (association of tax experts). As José María de Pablos, director of Information Systems of the College of Registrars, says, the case "looks bad" and will probably end up in the hands of the anti-money laundering office of this institution to be investigated. The "English gentleman", whose data are confidential, and its corporate network have come to light thanks to the Register of Unique Ownerships, a database recently created by the Registrar's College that allows to put name and last name to the authentic owners of the companies.
The registry is taking its first steps, but there is already valuable data: it has detected 122,040 companies in the chain of control of others, which are known as cartel or interposed companies. Of these, 89% are domiciled in Spain; almost 14,000 are in other states. The Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg lead the list, but there are almost 300 companies in countries that the European Union includes in its very restricted list of tax havens (as Saudi Arabia, with 122). Andorra, Panama, Gibraltar or the British Virgin Islands, designated by NGOs as Tax Justice Network as not very transparent, amount to more than a thousand companies.
The prevention of money laundering and financing of terrorism is behind the creation of the Registrar's database, as explained by its dean, María Emilia Adán: "The record arises from a European concern that is reflected in the fourth and fifth directives against him money laundering, which state that at least who has more than 25% of the ownership of a company must be known ". Since last year, an order from the Ministry of Justice obliges companies to include the identification of the real owner in the presentation of their annual accounts. The 2017 accounts are the first to incorporate a new page that shows who controls the share capital.
The directive obliges the Member States to develop a national system that is also connected to the rest of the European registers - in a platform called e-justice- to be able to exchange information. That is why it is a very useful tool for those who pursue economic crime, such as tax inspectors, anti-corruption prosecutors or investigators of the Central Operational Unit of the Civil Guard or the UDEF of the National Police. "A prosecutor told me that if he had this before he would have saved months of work because sometimes reaching the final society costs God and help," says De Pablos, adding that the fact of finding interposed companies does not automatically indicate that There is an attempt to hide.
For José María Peláez, tax inspector and author of several books on money laundering, these tools are essential to fight against money laundering, but also against tax fraud and "against all crime in general." "We all know that societies, or the webs of societies, are often used as an instrument to hide who is the true owner of the goods. It puts frontmen to friends or relatives, sometimes indigent knowing that we will not find them. In view of this, the regulations want to know who is behind, "he says.
The record will be very useful, predicts Peláez. "If you have to do the search by hand, with seven or eight intermediate companies, you do not get the data. There is everything. You can easily see, for example, if 100% of a company has two spouses, one directly and another through a limited company. It's a wonder because you get to the end of the chain and allows you to control indirect domains, "he adds. The system is useful, but imperfect, he says, because the bad They know how to overcome obstacles: "The pure and simple criminal knows perfectly well how the tax administration, the judges, the database of registrars and notaries work. They are continually scheming to see how they deceive us. "
The problem of offshore companies
Another problem with this and all the records is that they can not avoid the use of companies offshore of tax havens, Peláez criticizes. "European legislation is committed to declaring ownership in the registries, but if you really wanted to know the real owners would have to adopt effective measures to establish obstacles to tax havens." How? "That all those companies that go there to hide themselves are not recognized as legal entities and can not do any act of sale or anything in the Spanish commercial sphere," he suggests. In Spain, he says, "Gibraltar It is a tax haven. Who is behind these societies? It is not known; that's why they are created. In the case of a Gibraltar company that goes to the Costa del Sol and buys a bunch of apartment buildings or a chain of hotels, you do not really know who is buying. "
For now, the Registrar's Association has already signed agreements with the State Prosecutor's Office and with the Civil Guard so that they can use their database, which allows to automate searches, and also access to a secure and very easy to use website, in which you only have to enter CIF, DNI or company name to find out who is in the chain of control. It may be used by the provincial governments, the police, the Sepblac and possibly banks and insurers if they show "legitimate interest", but it will not be public access, says Adán, who also emphasizes that the registry will include the assimilated real owner: when he is not to the real one, the person in charge will be the administrator of the company.
Notaries and registrars have had a hidden struggle for a year to control the public registry of Spanish ownership. The General Council of Notaries has pending resolution of a contentious-administrative appeal before the National Court against the order of the Ministry of Justice that gave free access to the register of the Registrar's Association. The notaries claim that they already have a database of real ownership that works since 2014 regulated by the Law of Prevention of Money-Laundering, that "there is no urgency or public interest" in creating another and that a second can "create confusion".
The notaries also argue that "intimacy is endangered" by thousands of entrepreneurs because anyone can know if they have shares as the Mercantile Registry is public and indicate that the information will not be true (because there are companies that do not deposit accounts) or updated (As it is an annual statement, the shares can be transmitted the next day). Sources consulted believe that both have virtues and defects and believe that they will coexist.