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EU Council Adopts Directive To Make Company Ownership Data Public

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The European Council has approved a new package of rules designed to prevent fiscal crime, including allowing the public access to information on the beneficial ownership of companies.

Amendments to Directive 2015/849 are intended to close down criminal finance without hindering the normal functioning of payment systems. The changes were approved at a meeting of the General Affairs Council on May 14. This follows an agreement with the European Parliament in December 2017 and Parliament's approval of the agreed text in April.

The new Directive will provide for enhanced access to beneficial ownership registers, with the aim of improving transparency on the ownership of companies and trusts.

The Directive provides for public access to beneficial ownership information on companies; access on the basis of "legitimate interest" to beneficial ownership information on trusts and similar legal arrangements; and public access upon written request to beneficial ownership information on trusts that own a company that is not incorporated in the EU.

Member states will retain the right to provide broader access to information, in accordance with their national laws.

The registers will be interconnected to facilitate cooperation between EU member states.

The revised Directive also aims at improving cooperation between member states' financial intelligence units by providing them with access to information in centralized bank and payment account registers, to enable them to identify account holders. The Commission will require additional due diligence measures for financial flows from countries identified as having deficiencies in their anti-money laundering prevention regimes.

Vladislav Goranov, Finance Minister for Bulgaria, which currently holds the Council presidency, said: "These new rules respond to the need for increased security in Europe by further removing the means available to terrorists. They will enable us to disrupt criminal networks without compromising fundamental rights and economic freedoms."