Cyprus brings beneficial owner registry into operation

Monday, 11 January 2021
Cyprus has brought into operation its central register of beneficial ownership, completing the transposition of the EU Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (4AMLD).
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On 16 December, the Cyprus Council of Ministers decided to nominate the Registrar of Companies as the competent authority to maintain the register. Companies, trusts and other legal persons have six month, from 18 January 2021 to 19 July 2021, to collect beneficial ownership information and report it to the Registrar of Companies. A temporary platform has been developed for that purpose.

Beneficial owners of companies are defined as natural persons with a 25 per cent direct or indirect ownership of shares or voting rights, except for publicly listed companies. For trusts, the beneficial owners are the settlor, trustees, protector, beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries, or any other natural person exercising ultimate control over the trust.

Because the registry is being implemented under 4AMLD, and not the EU Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD), it will not be available to the public. This situation is unlikely to change until the end of 2021 at the earliest, experts have said.

In the meantime, access will be restricted to competent authorities such as the Tax Department and the police. Ultimately, it will be accessible to any person or organisation that can demonstrate a legitimate interest, as set out in 5AMLD. However, under Cyprus’ anti-money laundering laws the jurisdiction’s implementation will restrict 'legitimate interest' to mean suppression of money laundering activities and related offences, said Christina McCollum and Anastasios Antoniou of Cyprus law firm Antoniou McCollum.

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