European policymakers have reached a deal over controversial plans to give the public access to registers of beneficial owners of trusts and shares.
In a deal struck last night by negotiators on the draft anti-money laundering directive, members of the public with a “legitimate interest” will be able to access information about the owners of shares, but there will be no public access to information about the owners of trusts.
The deal is a victory for the UK after experts raised concerns about making public details of consumers in simple arrangements, such as parents putting a property into trust for their children.
In February, the European Parliament set out plans for the ultimate owners of companies and legal entities such as trusts to be listed in public registers to help fight money launderung.
Last week Money Marketing reported policymakers were at loggerheads over the proposals, with the parliament pushing for full transparency and the council opposing it.
In an announcement today, the parliament says registers of the ultimate owners of companies will be accessible by competent authorities and their financial intelligence units, as well as people with a “legitimate interest”, such as investigative journalists and concerned citizens.
Personal details will include the beneficial owner’s name, month and year of birth, nationality, residency and details of ownership.
Registers of the beneficial owners of trusts, however, will only be accessible by competent authorities and their financial intelligence units.
Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Judith Sargentini says: “The new rules agreed today will provide much greater transparency of the shadowy business structures that are at the heart of money laundering schemes, as well as schemes used by businesses to avoid their tax responsibility.”
Cicero senior executive Alexander Kneepkens says: “Negotiators reached a deal late last night in a seven-hour trilogue session. The exact definition of those with a ‘legitimate interest’ is unclear and likely to be determined by member states.
“The different approach for trusts is very sensible and another example of the UK still being very influential in the council when it comes to financial services.”
Wealth Management Association deputy chief executive John Barrass says: “I am particularly pleased to see that access to the register by persons with a legitimate interest does not extend to trusts.
”UK trusts are unlike those on the continent and access by the public to information on trusts recorded in the register could have risked revealing highly private information about ordinary individuals and families which is normally protected. This might have had damaging consequences in society as a whole.
“It’s good to see UK views having a positive effect in the trilogue negotiations.”