On the 12th of July 2019, The Register of Beneficial Owners Regulations of Malta (“BO Regulations”) has been amended. This amendment is being introduced inter alia, to seek to transpose certain provisions of the Fifth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive into Maltese law.
The major amendment introduced to the BO Regulation is in relation to the accessibility to the beneficial ownership register. Currently information on beneficial ownership is held by the Malta Business Registry and accessible amongst others by competent authorities and persons who have a legitimate interest. In so far as companies are concerned the access of the information on the beneficial ownership of companies is, by virtue of these amendments, to be freely accessible by members of the general public. This specific amendment will come into force on the 1st January 2020.
In case of trusts the disclosure of the beneficial ownership registry shall remain to be subject to ‘legitimate interest’.
The amendment to the BO Regulations impose that information is provided by the Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBO) to the company/ies in which they hold a beneficial interest. The Regulations bind the UBO to provide this information promptly, without the need for such request to come from the company. Having said the above the company still has its own obligation to obtain such information from the shareholders or UBOs. This backs up the already existing penalties that are applicable to beneficial owners in case of failure to provide such information to the company. Now, it appears that UBOs are also liable to penalties where they fail to voluntarily provide the information even without the request from the company.