On 22 March 2019 the European Union (Anti-Money Laundering: Beneficial Ownership of Corporate Entities) Regulations 2019 (the “Regulations”) were signed into law. The Regulations replace the existing regulations in this area introduced in 2016. Part 3 of the Regulations, concerning the central register of beneficial ownership (the “Central Register”), will come into effect on 22 June 2019.

The Regulations come shortly after the introduction of the European Union (Anti-Money Laundering: Beneficial Ownership of Trusts) Regulations 2019 governing the beneficial ownership of trusts earlier this year.

What are the key changes to the current beneficial ownership regime?

  • The long awaited Central Register of beneficial ownership will be established, likely to be operated by the Companies Registration Office.
  • Members of the public will be able to access the Central Register (but will have no access to the residential address of beneficial owners).
  • “Designated persons” conducting due diligence exercises will also have access and there will be unrestricted access for enforcement authorities including the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Síochána
  • Companies will be required to submit their beneficial ownership information to the Central Register by 22 November 2019.
  • Companies will be obliged to keep their information on the Central Register up to date. In addition, Designated Persons will have reporting obligations where they notice a discrepancy in the Central Register.
  • The sanctions for non-compliance have been significantly increased and new sanctions introduced.
  • Maximum penalties for non-compliance extend to fines not exceeding €500,000 for conviction on indictment and up to 12 months imprisonment for summary conviction or conviction on indictment.

Conclusion

The introduction of a Central Register has been long awaited and marks a continued trend in European law that requires greater openness and transparency for companies. The fact that members of the public will be able to view who is the beneficial owner of private groups of companies will be of interest to a number of parties. We look forward to further information being published on who will host the Central Register and the format and practicalities of filing information with the Central Register. We will provide a full briefing when this guidance has been published.