Register of Beneficial Owners - Changes to the Regulations
The regulations governing the Register of Beneficial Owners in Malta - “Companies Act (Register of Beneficial Owners) Regulations” have been changed in order to transpose some provisions provided for in the fifth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD 5), relating to money laundering and terrorism prevention, into Maltese law.
The main changes relate to the obtaining and updating of information about the beneficial owners, on the one hand, and the general public’s access to such information, on the other.
Beneficial owners to take partial responsibility
In the first situation mentioned above, the responsibility for the provision and updating of information will now be shared by the company and by the beneficial owners themselves. To date, this responsibility lay with the companies, with the beneficial owners being required to provide the requested mandatory information. On 12 July 2019, the responsibility began to be shared by the company and the beneficial owners; the latter must now inform the former and provide the relevant details immediately, with no requirement for the company to request such information beforehand. Beneficial owners who fail to provide the required information adequately and in timely fashion are liable to be fined.
General public given access to information
Starting in January 2020, the general public will be able to access the information about the beneficial owners of Maltese companies. Currently, this information can only be accessed by the relevant national authorities, some other qualified people and anyone invoking arguments related to money laundering or the funding of terrorism. Starting from next year, the general public will be able to access the following data about each beneficial owner:
- Month and year of birth
- Country of residence
- Nature and extent of the economic interest held
Access to these details may be refused under certain exceptional circumstances, particularly in cases where it can be proven that the beneficial owner could be exposed to a disproportionate level of risk, a risk of fraud, kidnapping, blackmail, extortion, harassment, violence or intimidation, or in cases where the beneficial owner is a minor or is legally incapacitated.
Reinforcement of RoC supervisory powers
In order to ensure that the information remains adequate, updated and relevant, the Registrar of Companies (RoC) has been given the power to question and check, on companies’ premises, if necessary, the effective ownership of said companies, as long as it has reason to suspect that the information submitted to it is incorrect or out of date. Additionally, certain qualified people and the authorities with responsibilities in the fight against money laundering and the funding of terrorism must report any discrepancies detected between the information held and that contained in the Register of Beneficial Owners. The RoC will take the necessary measures to ensure such discrepancies are rectified and may even explicitly mention them on the Register of Beneficial Owners until such time as they are corrected. In cases where discrepancies are confirmed and the RoC corrects them, the people responsible for the company will be liable for a fine, the maximum amount of which is €10,000 each.
For more information about these regulations or any other question about Maltese companies, please contact us.