Beneficial ownership under the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive

Article 30 of the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (Directive 2015/849/EU) (MLD4) requires all Member States to hold central registers on company beneficial ownership information from 26 June 2017.

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Member States can opt to make their register public, or at a minimum ensure law enforcement, obliged entities and others with a 'legitimate interest' have appropriate access to the information. Whilst the UK has met its 2013 G8 commitment to establish a publicly accessible central register of information on beneficial ownership (the PSC Register), there are some differences between the PSC and MLD4 regimes.

In particular, the directive requires the central register at Companies House to be kept up-to-date at all times, whereas under the confirmation statement provisions of the CA 2006 companies are only required to update their information annually.

Further issues include whether the PSC regime must be extended to encompass a wider scope of legal entities, including co-operative and community benefit societies, building societies, friendly societies, credit unions, CIOs, Scottish partnerships and Royal Charter organisations.

Article 31 of the directive also provides that Member States shall require trustees of any express trust governed under their law (whether the trust generates tax consequences or not) to obtain and hold adequate, accurate and up-to-date information on beneficial ownership of the trust and make this information available to competent authorities and the relevant Financial Intelligence Unit (in the UK this is the National Crime Agency). Further, the directive requires that the beneficial ownership information is held in a central register when the trust generates tax consequences.

HM Treasury, in September 2016, published a Consultation on the transposition of the Fourth Money Laundering Directive. The closing date for comments to be submitted is 10 November 2016.

By Ed Davies, Solicitor, Corporate

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