On December 17, 2014, EU law makers within the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have reached political consensus on tougher anti-money laundering rules which are expected to be formally finalized next year in the fourth anti-money laundering directive. The rules agreed on are aimed at making questionable deals harder to hide from scrutiny and helping tackle tax evasion and money laundering. According the Art. 29, 30 of the draft fourth anti-money laundering directive national governments will be required to set up central registers of information on the owners of corporate and other legal entities, also including trusts that often do not reveal their beneficial owner. The register would include the owner’s name, date of birth, nationality, residency and details of ownership. “Registers of beneficial ownership will help to lift the veil of secrecy of offshore accounts and greatly aid the fight against money laundering and blatant tax evasion”, said Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee spokesman Krišjānis Kariņš. The data on the register would be accessible to regulators and other “competent authorities” without restriction. Banks, auditors, lawyers or real-estate agents are able to have access as other “obliged entities” to conduct their AML customer due diligence duties. The information would also be available for scrutiny by people with “legitimate interest,” such as nongovernment organizations, investigative journalists and other citizens, provided they can demonstrate their interest, according to the European Parliament press release. In the case of trusts, the information will be available only to government bodies and not the public. Individuals who feel they would face serious risks by having their information included on the publicly available lists could be exempt in exceptional circumstances. The text of the draft fourth anti-money laundering directive is available here. Final approval of the new directive is needed by a formal vote of the EU Parliament and the Council in 2015. After the parliament’s vote, EU governments will have two years to incorporate the new rules into their national laws and set up the registers.
Isabell Gernand is a member of Baker & McKenzie's Dispute Resolution Practice Group in Munich. She previously worked in law firms in Washington, DC and Düsseldorf, assisting in corporate litigation, corporate compliance, antitrust and data privacy. Ms. Gernand assists clients in a broad range of corporate litigation and corporate compliance matters including internal investigations, anti-corruption due diligence, risk minimization strategies and related civil litigation.