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From "the missing Crypto Queen" (a BBC story on the OneCoin scam):

He takes the first one on the list and looks it up on the Companies House website. Everything is meant to be transparent - the website contains the details of every company in the UK. It's thought to be a key anti-corruption tool. "We are very proud of this in this country," he says. "The problem is that when you create this company, no-one checks any of the information provided." He clicks to see the company's filing history, but where you should see company accounts, there is nothing. "This is classic," he exclaims. "Look, nothing has happened. They have filed no financial information at all." Then he tries checking the company's owners. The UK began to insist recently that companies must enter the name of the person with "significant control" - the real owner.

"This is supposed to mean that you can no longer use a British company to hide behind," he says, as he scrolls down the page. "Oh, hey presto, they haven't filed a person with significant control. That's illegal… That is an anonymous shell company, as anonymous as anything that you can buy anywhere in the Seychelles or Nevis or the Marshall Islands or Vanuatu."

According to Wikipedia, Companies House is

the United Kingdom's registrar of companies and is an executive agency and trading fund of Her Majesty's Government. It falls under the remit of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and is also a member of the Public Data Group.

So basically, it's a UK government agency that among other things fulfills the role of business register.

Does Companies House do any checking whatsoever on their business registration data? How could someone file an empty form, i.e. no person of "significant control" whatsoever? Or is the story wrong and it is/was legal in the UK to still file such anonymous shell companies?

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It's still possible in practice if not on paper. For instance you could create a nominee company in e.g. Delaware, and have the latter open a UK subsidiary. And if you don't trust US authorities, you could add a few layers of indirection through the Cayman Islands, Belize, Panama, etc.

Whichever path it is, the nominee director would then appear in the Companies House's records. And that person would be the correct one to list because, short of getting a heap of foreign law firms to comply with a UK court order on the basis that some law was maybe broken, the Companies House would have no way to know if the listed director is a custodian or who the beneficiary is if not.

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    +1 This is a decent answer, but I'm still hoping someone will provide some details as to what checks (even if very perfunctory) Companies House does. (I'm also aware that [in general] scamming such registers with stolen identities etc. is possible as well given that, e.g. "most [US] states are good faith filing states".) – Fizz Apr 12 at 15:37
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    @Fizz: If I may point out, the thing to take away from this answer is that, even with very strict controls in place, you're just one level of indirection away from a (not so) good faith filing state based company creating a subsidiary in your country. And even if you disallow such states to create subsidiaries, three problems arise: you must assume all non-rogue countries do the same in general; that the US does the same in particular; and that the US isn't a rogue state itself when it comes to anonymity and taxation to begin with -- by virtue of Delaware, Las Vegas, etc. – Denis de Bernardy Apr 12 at 17:48
  • I agree with most of what you say, but, just to be clear, Las Vegas isn't a state. It's a city in the State of Nevada. Your last comment was written confusingly making it sound like Las Vegas was a state by putting it beside Delaware. So I was just clearing the record. Still +1, especially since that was part of your comment, not your answer. – Chipster Apr 13 at 0:50
  • @Chipster: It wasn't confusion, it was on purpose. And by Las Vegas, I actually meant the unincorporated part of the city, Paradise, which as any foreigner who looks into incorporating a US business will rapidly learn, is a glorified tax haven within the US. – Denis de Bernardy Apr 13 at 0:54
  • @DenisdeBernardy Ah, okay. Didn't know that was a thing. I associated so many other things with Las Vegas, but never taxes before. So I just assumed. My bad. – Chipster Apr 13 at 0:57

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