By virtue of Legal Notice 158 of 2019 the Companies Act (Register of Beneficial Owners) Regulations (the “BO Regulations”) were amended on 12th July 2019. The amendments to the BO Regulations transpose certain provisions of the Fifth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which directive is set to come into force on 10th January 2020 and will have to be transposed into the Maltese legislative framework.
The most significant amendment introduced to the BO Regulations is the amendment to Regulation 7 which deals with access to the beneficial ownership register. Currently, information on beneficial ownership of a company is held by the Registrar of Companies and access is limited to the following persons:
- national competent authorities which are designated with the responsibilities of combating money laundering and terrorist financing;
- the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit;
- National Tax Authorities;
- subject persons for the purposes of carrying out customer due diligence;
- persons who have a legitimate interest.
In terms of the amended Regulation 7, effective 1st January 2020 “any member of the general public” shall have access to the name, month and year of birth, nationality, country of residence and extent and nature of beneficial interest of the beneficial owners of a company. Accordingly, effective 1st January 2020 persons wishing to access information on the beneficial ownership of a company would not need to demonstrate a legitimate interest, as the information will be publicly available.
In certain exceptional cases access to information on the beneficial owner of a company may be restricted to subject persons and the general public, either in full or in part. Said restrictions would apply in cases where access to the beneficial ownership information would expose the beneficial owner to a disproportionate risk, risk of fraud, kidnapping, blackmail, extortion, harassment, intimidation, or where the beneficial owner is a minor or legally incapable.