The Companies Act together with the Trusts and Trustees Acts and the Schedules to the Civil Code to Foundations and Associations, have all been amended so as to be in line with the European Directive 2015/849 (The Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive); these amendments came into force on 1st January 2018. The purpose of the Directive is to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism by preventing the financial market from being misused for these purposes. One key point is to identify and verify the identity of the ultimate beneficial owner who controls and/or owns a company.
The Maltese Registry of Companies within the MFSA has issued a new form to be submitted when incorporating a new Maltese company, requesting the following information from all UBOs:
- Name, date of birth, nationality, country of residence and an official identification document number indicating the type of document and the country of issue;
- The nature and extent of the beneficial interest held by each UBO and any changes thereto;
- The effective date on which a natural person became, or ceased to be, a UBO of the company or has increased or reduced his beneficial interest.
This information will be held by the Registrar of Companies, and shall only be accessible to:
- National competent authorities with designated responsibilities for combating money laundering and terrorist financing;
- National competent authorities that have the function of investigating or prosecuting money laundering and terrorist financing;
- The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU);
- National tax authorities.
In any other circumstance, the information is accessible to other parties on a case-bycase basis. Any person or organisation submitting a written request and which satisfactorily demonstrates and justifies a legitimate interest shall be granted access to the name, the month and year of birth, the nationality, the country of residence and the extent and nature of the beneficial interest of the UBOs of a company.
The term “legitimate interest” is defined as the will to contribute to the prevention of money laundering and is justified on previous activities and a proven track record of actions in that field. This decision remains within the discretion of the Registrar of Companies.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.