Against the backdrop of the 4th and 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directives, Belgium passed a law dated 18 September 2017 on preventing money laundering and terrorist financing, and restricting the use of cash (“AML Law”). The AML Law laid the groundwork for a domestic ultimate beneficial owners (“UBOs”) register in readiness for further provisions, which have now been incorporated through a royal decree dated 30 July 2018 (“AML Royal Decree”).  The UBOs register is an online platform hosted by the Federal Public Service Finance, accessed via a Belgian ID. Remember that Belgian companies, (international) non-profit associations and foundations, as well as trusts and similar legal arrangements are already obliged to collect and keep adequate, accurate and up-to-date data relating to their Ultimate Beneficial Owners. Recording their UBOs in the official register will soon become mandatory for those legal entities .  Regarding companies, the following persons will qualify as UBOs:

  1. natural persons who ultimately own the legal entity through sufficient direct or indirect ownership of voting rights or ownership interest in the entity, including through bearer shareholdings;
  2. natural persons who control the legal entity via other means; or
  3. if, after having exhausted all possible means and provided there are no grounds for suspicion, no person under above point (i) or (ii) is identified, or if there is any doubt that the person identified is the UBO, natural persons who hold the position of senior managing official.

The AML Royal Decree contains a comprehensive list of information required for the UBOs register:

  • surname and first name;
  • date of birth;
  • citizenship(s);
  • country of residence;
  • full residential address;
  • the date on which the person became a UBO of the company;
  • identification number in the Belgian National Register (or equivalent foreign register);
  • relevant category of UBO;
  • whether the person qualifies as a direct or indirect UBO;
  • if an indirect UBO, additional information about intermediaries;
  • whether the person is an isolated UBO or in concert with others;
  • the extent of the total interest held in the company.

Company directors will be held liable for completing this task. They are expected to provide such information within a month as from the moment it is known or updated. Whilst the AML Royal Decree enters into force on 31 October 2018, company directors must record initial information by 31 March 2019 at the latest.

Failure to comply with the AML Royal Decree obligations could result in administrative and/or criminal penalties for directors ranging from EUR 250 to EUR 50,000.