In recent years, the fight against money laundering has been intensely focused on making sure that the names of the ultimate beneficial owners of a company are disclosed and made public.
For this reason, the 5th European Anti-Money Laundering Directive had required EU Member States to grant public and unrestricted access to national registers information on ultimate beneficial owners. However, this provision was judicially challenged in Luxemburg. The Court of Justice of the European Union just ruled on the issue and found that unrestricted public access to the registers of ultimate beneficial owners seriously infringes the fundamental right to privacy as well as the rules on the protection of personal data. Consequently, this provision has been deemed as a violation of EU law and only organizations enjoying a legitimate interest can now consult the registers.
This decision has stirred immediate controversy and triggered sharp criticism from NGO’s such as Transparency International. An unexpected consequence of the ruling is that Europe and Colombia are now aligned on this matter, both providing a register of ultimate beneficial owners whose access is restricted to organizations enjoying a legitimate interest to do so.