Following a judgment issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “CJEU
”) on 22 November 2022 (found here
, for reference), the Registrar of Companies announced that, as of 23 November 2022, access to the Register of Beneficial Owners maintained by the Registrar of Companies for the general public is suspended.
In the same announcement, the Registrar of Companies also stated that access to the beneficial owners’ information will continue to be provided, following the applicable procedure, to: (a) the competent and supervisory authorities (e.g. the Cyprus Central Bank, the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, the Police, the Tax Department etc.) and the Unit for Combating Money Laundering, and (b) any natural or legal person who has an obligation according to the law for the purposes of conducting their own due diligence (e.g. financial institutions, banks), by submitting additionally a solemn declaration confirming that the information on the beneficial owners is requested within the context of performing customer due diligence.
Notwithstanding the above, the Registrar of Companies emphasised that the obligation of companies and partnerships to submit and update their beneficial owners’ information will not be affected and thus remains valid.
CJEU Judgment in Joined Cases C-37/20
The reasoning behind the CJEU’s decision is that the access, to any member of the general public, to the information of the beneficial owners of legal entities is invalid, since it seriously interferes with the right of respect for private life and also the right to the protection of personal data, as these two are provided for in Articles 7 and 8 respectively of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the “Charter
The relevant article of the EU anti-money laundering directive allowing access to the register of Beneficial Owners, namely point (c) of the first subparagraph of Article 30(5) of Directive 2015/849 (as amended by Directive (EU) 2018/843), states that the information on beneficial ownership is accessible in all cases to ‘any member of the general public
’, and further regulates that the members of the general public must be permitted ‘to access at least the name, the month and year of birth and the country of residence and nationality of the beneficial owner as well as the nature and extent of the beneficial interest held
Upon referral of this matter by a Luxembourg court, the CJEU assessed the issue of the validity of the abovementioned articles in light of Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter. The court ruled that, regardless of whether the information in question relating to private life is sensitive or whether the persons concerned have been inconvenienced, making personal data available to third parties constitutes an interference with the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter.
Furthermore, the potential consequences for the data subjects resulting from possible abuse of their personal data are exacerbated by the fact that, once such data is made available to the general public, it can not only be freely consulted, but also retained and disseminated. Subsequent to highlighting the seriousness of such interference, the court further noted that making such information available to the general public in such a manner is likely to result in hardly defendable abuse of the data subjects’ personal information.
Despite the fact that the primary aim of the anti-money laundering directive is of general interest and increased transparency, the court held that the interference entailed by the measure in question “is neither limited to what is strictly necessary nor proportionate to the objective pursued