Reports suggest that late last night the EU Parliament and Member States finally reached an agreement on the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive. The agreement will see a mandatory requirement for registration of beneficial owners for corporates, but is less than clear on the issue of public access to such a register, allowing access to be limited to those with a legitimate interest”.
On trusts the agreement calls for national registers to be established simply based on the information that will in any case be available to tax authorities. There is no requirement for public access or access by obliged entities, although obliged entities may be allowed access if a Member State wishes. This looks like a pragmatic solution. Relying on tax information to compile the register should minimise bureaucracy and costs and the proposed access rules should help preserve legitimate confidentiality of trusts, many of which are established to protect the interests of vulnerable family members.
STEP has been proactively campaigning for some time on this issue and had recently provided a legal opinion to the Commission and others outlining that public access to any trust register was likely be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. We are pleased that our concerns on this point seem to have been recognised in the negotiations last night.
This is a great outcome and STEP will report more details of the arrangement, most likely in the new year.