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31 May 2017

A guide to the status of EU national ownership registries for AML4

Ted Datta

On 26th June 2017, all 28 EU member states should have enacted the regulations and measures of the EU’s 4th anti-money laundering directive – Directive 2015/ 849 – less formally known as AML4. We’ve taken a look at how each EU member is doing with implementing one of the most significant provisions of AML4 – the creation of national registries of beneficial owners and persons of significant control (PSCs).

In a recent blog post, What you need to know about AML4, we mentioned that one of the key provisions of AML4 requires that each nation create a central registry containing information about the beneficial owners of companies that operate within their jurisdictions. And another blog examined recent efforts to try and lessen the transparency of these registries by some EU members, many of whom benefit from acting as banking centres and low-tax jurisdictions. With an interest in prioritising privacy over transparency, these nations appeared to focus their anti-transparency initiatives on making the national ownership registries less easily accessible or limiting the amount of information that they needed to collect from beneficial owners and PSCs.

With under a month left until AML4’s official implementation date, we thought that compliance professionals would be interested to find out the current, country-by-country status of these ownership registries. Thumbnail_blog_PDF_A_guide_to_the_status_of_EU_national_ownership_registries_for_AML4

In a hurry? You can download this article to print or read later. 

To try and give you the most accurate and up-to-date take on this topic, we drew on a variety of sources. To begin with, we referenced this overview. In addition to consulting this document, which was published on 1st February 2017, we also tried to find out what the very latest status of each national registry was, as of the publication date of this blog.

To do this, we performed extensive searches on the latest legislative measures and enactment activities taken by each of the member states. In some cases, we were able to discover recent information about certain nations’ progress. In other instances, we either uncovered evidence that a country’s registry legislation was lagging behind or we were unable to unearth any new data – this applied to several nations’ national registry efforts, or lack thereof.

The images below offer a snapshot of what we’ve succeeded in finding out about the current status of these national ownership registries.

The colour-coded map aims to paint you a clear, visual picture of just exactly where each EU nation stands in terms of implementing its ownership registry.

The following graph shows both the stage of enactment of each country's registry, as well as, where known, the stances that each member state's registry takes towards transparency versus privacy.

As you can see, two countries – the United Kingdom and Denmark – have far outpaced their EU neighbours in terms of both the creation of their registries (which are already up and running) and the level of transparency that they offer (both the Danish and UK registries are fully publicly accessible and free).

Yet, the other 26 EU countries' progress in setting up their national ownership registries varies widely, as does their approach to how transparent these registries should be. On one end of the spectrum, there is a cluster of member states, such as Germany, Ireland and the Czech Republic, whose parliaments have already passed and fully ratified national registry laws that will go into effect by the 26th June deadline.

On the other side of the sliding scale, there are a number of EU nations – such as Malta, Luxembourg, Latvia and Lithuania – whose lack of visible legislation on the matter suggests that their progress with implementing this provision may have stalled significantly.

And, in the middle of the spectrum lies a large group of countries, including France, Portugal, Spain and Italy, who have draft laws in varying stages of readiness. Although all of these pieces of national legislation seem to be heading towards passage at different speeds, some are likely to miss being fully enacted by 26th June.

Parallel ownership research on Orbis

In addition to the fact that so many countries are falling behind in setting up their AML4-mandated ownership registries and the ongoing uncertainty about just how transparent these registries will actually end up being, there's also a whole other argument about whether these registries will be significant sources of ownership data at all. So, it might reassure you to know that there are other resources you can turn to for beneficial ownership details.

For instance, by using Orbis, our database which covers more than 220 million companies across all countries worldwide, you'll quickly and easily be able to access some of the broadest and deepest ownership information available. This could prove especially useful if you need to supplement or fill in gaps in the data contained in national registries, which, after all, might not be available for some time yet and may, in some cases, never be particularly accessible.
Ted Datta

Ted Datta, Director of GRC Solutions

Ted helps organisations streamline their due diligence, onboarding and risk management processes. He is a regular contributor to Europe’s leading compliance
and financial crime forums.

Ted helps organisations streamline their due diligence, onboarding and risk management processes. He is a regular contributor to Europe’s leading compliance
and financial crime forums.

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