UBO Register ECJ Decision
The UBO Register ECJ decision has shocked the legal and services world of the European Union and will be remembered as a landmark case giving back people their privacy.
Blocking public access to the UBO Register is based on fundamental human rights rather than a change in policy. In Cyprus, the UBO Register was accessible to the wider public as of the 1st of June 2022.
This meant that a simple written application and the payment of €3 can open the records of any company based in Cyprus. The right was under Article 30 (5) (c) of Directive (EU) 2015/849 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering or terrorist financing (AML Directive 2015), since Cyprus was obliged to ensure that information on beneficial ownership is accessible by any person or organisation that can demonstrate a legitimate interest in obtaining it.
According to the ECJ (ECJ No 188/2022; joined cases C-37/20, C-601/20), the general public’s access to information on beneficial ownership constitutes a serious interference with fundamental rights, particularly under Article 7 (respect for private and family life) and Article 8 (protection of personal data) of the Charter. Against this backdrop, the ECJ declared Article 30 (5) (c) of the AML Directive 2018 invalid.
UBO Register ECJ Decision and the Registrar of Companies
The Department of Companies did not remain idle, with the issue of the ECJ Decision it did not take them much time to close access to the UBO Register following the ECJ Decision. On the 28th of November, the Department of Companies in Cyprus came out with a public announcement declaring the UBO Register closed to the public.
The obligation to disclose beneficial owners remains, the UBO register will be kept and it will be accessible to the government and governmental bodies such as the policy, the tax department or otherwise however it will finally close for the general public.
What about other shareholder information available in the public domain?
Shareholder certificates are commonplace in Cyprus as many of your know.
On their face, they include the name of the shareholder and the number of shares each shareholder hold.
If you dig deeper, by carrying out a company search, you can find out the full name, date of birth, passport number, and address on top of the name and number of shares.
This means that any person can request shareholder information on any company. They only need to pay €20 to the Registrar of Companies.
Without a doubt the personal information contained in the UBO register and that of a share certificate are identical. The ban on accessing personal information should be extended to share certificates otherwise, and as long, the practice is allowed to continue everyone’s fundamental rights are breached.
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