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Countries are gradually blocking access to companies' beneficial ownership information

Several countries have already blocked public access to their Registers of Beneficial Ownership. What are Cyprus' next steps?

Following the controversial ruling by the Court of Justice of Europe addressing the public's access to the Beneficial Beneficiary Registers of legal entities throughout Europe, a domino effect of changes occurred.

The disclosure of such information "may entail a disproportionate risk to the fundamental rights of privacy of those involved," according to the European Court of Justice, which last Tuesday invalidated a provision of the European Directive regarding the beneficial owners of companies and the disclosure of their information to the general public of European states.

Following the judgment, each member state of the European Union is gradually limiting public access to information about the true owners of the companies listed in their companies registers.

Particularly, a few hours after the decision, Luxembourg initiate the procedure of blocking off access to the general public, followed by the Netherlands, Austria, and Malta.

According to sources, in the following days, Cyprus will close public access to the beneficial owners of companies registered at the Registrar of Companies.

The competent authority, the Department of the Registrar of Companies is taking all necessary steps and drafting a Notice to advise the general public and all interested parties on how to manage the situation at hand.

The European Court of Justice's ruling is being challenged by groups like Transparency International, who see it as a setback in the fight against money laundering.

According to Maíra Martini, a capital flows expert at Transparency International, this is a decision that takes us years back.

She points out that this decision has an impact on not just the general public but also some professional groups who work hard to halt the flow of illicit and suspicious money.

The results of this action are already apparent, as Austria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Malta have already restricted access to their registries which means that  information is being removed and citizens and other interested parties can no longer connect the dots and identify suspicious transactions.



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