EU member states’ sluggish progress on beneficial ownership registers

European Union (EU) member states are making sluggish progress towards establishing the central beneficial ownership registers called for in the EU’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Directive, according to the Global Witness campaign group.

The directive requires all member states to set up a centralised register of the ultimate owners of companies and make this information available to the public.

Countries were given more than two years to implement these changes, meaning that the registers should have been up and running by 10 January 2020.

Patchy progress

Global Witness has found progress has been at best patchy with only five member states (18.5%) having fully and properly set up registers that are available to the public and compliant with the directive.

They found that 17 of 27 member states (63%) do not yet have a centralised register of the beneficial owners of companies which is available to the public.

Five of 27 Member States (18.5%) have a centralised register of the beneficial owners of companies which is available to the public but with significant restrictions that hinder their usefulness in combatting money laundering.

Less than transparent

There are 17 countries that do not appear to have a beneficial ownership register that is open to all members of the public. This includes six countries – Czechia, Finland, France, Portugal, Romania and Spain – which have a register but only make it available to people that can demonstrate legitimate interest or purpose of use.

Four countries – Belgium, Croatia, Portugal and Sweden – make the register available only to citizens or residents of a few European countries. Eight countries – Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands and Slovakia – either do not appear to have any beneficial ownership register as yet or have one, but not one that is available to members of the public with a legitimate interest.

More details of Global Witness’s survey of EU member states’ progress on implementing the EU’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Directive can be found here.

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