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MEPs Call For Wider Access To Beneficial Ownership Data

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

EU citizens would be able to view information in registers of beneficial ownership without having to demonstrate a "legitimate interest," under proposed amendments the Anti-Money Laundering Directive.

The amendments were agreed to in a report passed by the European Parliament's Economic Monetary Affairs and Civil Liberties committees. The report was carried by 89 votes to one, with four abstentions.

At present, those seeking to access beneficial ownership registers must demonstrate a "legitimate interest" in the information. According to Parliament, this restricts access to authorities and professionals such as journalists and lobbyists.

Judith Sargentini, a co-rapporteur on the file, said: "Complex company structures and shelf companies make it easy for people to hide money. Through a public register for companies and trusts, the European Parliament wants to shed light on these structures and thereby combat them."

The committees also voted in favor of imposing upon vital currency platforms the same obligation as banks and other payment institutions to scrutinize their customers. They would be required to verify identity details and monitor financial transactions, to reduce the risk of virtual currencies being used to launder criminal proceeds.

In addition, the amendments would expand the scope of the Directive to cover trusts and "other types of legal arrangements having a structure or functions similar to trusts." Trusts would therefore have to meet the full transparency requirements, including the need to identify beneficial owners.

The committees voted by 92 votes to one, with one abstention, to enter into negotiations with the Council. Parliament as a whole must now give the go-ahead during its March plenary for three-way talks between Parliament, the Commission, and the Council to begin.