EU Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive

In 2015, the European Union adopted its Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which imposed on Member States the obligation to establish a register containing the details of the ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs) of corporate and other legal entities within the European Union (the so-called UBO register). By way of the Act of September 18, 2017, the UBO register became part of Belgian law, and a Royal Decree of July 30, 2018 now provides the required details about the operation of the Belgian UBO register. The Royal Decree obliges all Belgian companies, foundations, (international) non-profit organizations, fiduciaries, and trusts to submit information about their ultimate beneficial owners to this UBO register, which is administered by the Belgian Ministry of Finance. The information must be submitted by March 31, 2019.

Introduction

The need for accurate and up-to-date information regarding beneficial ownership is key in tracing criminals who might otherwise hide their identity behind a corporate structure.

With this in mind, the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (Directive (EU) 2015/849 of May 20, 2015), implemented into Belgian law by the Act of September 18, 2017, introduced an obligation on Member States to ensure that:

  1. Corporate and other legal entities incorporated within their territory obtain and hold adequate, accurate, and current information on their beneficial ownership.
  2. This beneficial ownership information is submitted by the directors of the entities in question and held in a national Ultimate Beneficial Owner register (UBO register).

Among other things, the Act of September 18, 2017 (i) added to article 14/1 of the Belgian Companies Code an obligation to obtain and hold adequate, accurate, and current information concerning beneficial ownership and (ii) provided for the Belgian UBO register to be controlled by a service of the Ministry of Finance.

However, the terms of operation of the Belgian UBO register still needed to be determined. These terms have now finally been set out in a Royal Decree of July 30, 2018.

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