The European Parliament and the European Council have reached a political agreement on the fifth anti-money laundering Directive. Several measures relate to the ultimate beneficial owner register (hereafter “UBO register”) and aim at increasing transparency on who really owns companies and trusts. The main changes are the following :

  1. Public access to all national UBO registers of legal entities operating in the EU;
  2. Interconnection of national registers;
  3. Access to UBO registers for trusts without restrictions to competent authorities, Financial Intelligence Units, professional sectors subject to anti-money laundering rules (e.g. banks and lawyers) and to other persons that can demonstrate a legitimate interest (such as NGOs and investigative journalists);

Member states will also have to put in place verification mechanisms to help improve the accuracy of the information and the reliability of the national UBO registers.

These measures will have a particular impact on the confidentiality of UBO’s of Belgian companies as the Belgian UBO register is currently not accessible to the public.

Public access to the national UBO registers is expected to be effective as from end 2019. Access to UBO registers for trusts to persons with a legitimate interest should enter into force early 2020. The interconnection of the different national registers is expected by 2021.