REGISTER OF BENEFICIAL OWNERS – SUSPENSION OF ACCESS TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC

The Register of Beneficial Owners was introduced by the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (2015/849/ΕΕ) and, as amended, with the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (2018/843/EE). The provisions of the Directive were implemented in Cyprus with the national law on the Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering Activities and Terrorist Financing of 2007 and its amendments. The main purpose of the creation of the Register is the enhancement of transparency through the identification of the beneficial owners of all companies and other legal entities.

Following the Judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Joined Cases C-37/20 and C-601/20, dated 22/11/22, access to the general public is now suspended.

The said cases were referred to the CJEU after the decision of a Luxembourg District Court, which overruled the claims in two disputes raised by a real estate company in Luxembourg and its beneficial owner for the restriction of access to their information from the general public. The CJEU for the said cases examined the validity of Article 30(5) of the 4th and 5th AML Directives as amended, for the accessibility of information from the general public, as well as the interpretation of Article 30(9) of the said Directives, for the option to provide, ‘in exceptional circumstances’, restriction to access to all or part of beneficial owners’ information by the Member States, thus, the interpretation of Articles 44 to 50 of the General Data Protection Regulations with regards to the protection of personal data. The CJEU concluded that the full public access to the Registers of Member States is disproportionate and interferes with the fundamental rights of respect of private life and protection of personal data (Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union).

Subsequently, the Cyprus Department of Registrar of Companies and Intellectual Property, suspended the access to the Register for the general public, effective since 23/11/22. Free access to the information of beneficial owners is still valid for the Cyprus Competent Supervisory Authorities, the Cyprus FIU, the Cyprus Customs Department, the Cyprus Tax Department and the Cyprus Police. Obliged entities shall continue to have online access, by paying the relevant fee, however, a solemn declaration shall be submitted to confirm that the access is requested for performing customer due diligence checks.

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