Trusts concession alleviates privacy concerns

For the first time ever EU member states will be forced to maintain ‘central registers’ which detail who the beneficial owners are of corporate and legal entities, including trusts, the European Parliament has proposed.

However, in a concession to some member states, including the UK, which had raised concerns over privacy, registers for trusts will not be made public and will only be able to be accessed by official bodies or regulators.

This forms part of the fourth anti-money laundering directive. These central registers did not feature in the European Commission’s initial proposal, but were included by MEPs during the negotiations.

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The aim is to enhance transparency, make “dodgy deals” harder to hide and fight money laundering and tax crime, the EC said.

The proposals, produced yesterday (17 December), would also require banks, auditors, lawyers, real estate agents and casinos, among others, to be more vigilant about suspicious transactions made by their clients.

Krišjānis Kariņš, rapporteur for the EU’s economic and monetary affairs committee, said that for years, criminals in Europe have used the anonymity of offshore companies and accounts to obscure their financial dealings.

“Creating registers of beneficial ownership will help to lift the veil of secrecy of offshore accounts and greatly aid the fight against money laundering and blatant tax evasion.

“The new rules agreed will provide much greater transparency of the shadowy business structures that are at the heart of money laundering schemes, as well as schemes used by businesses to avoid their tax responsibility.”

The new rules still needs to be endorsed by EU member states’ ambassadors and by European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committees, before being put to a vote by the full parliament next year.