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Public Access to the UBO Register has been suspended

ACCESS to UBO suspended

Published in the Government Gazette (6092/B/29.11.2022), the joint decision of the ministers of Finance and State suspends the possibility of public access to Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO)’s Central Register, following a relevant request submitted by the Ministry of Finance (Ministerial Decision no. 174950/29.11.2022).

The suspension is entered into force from December 1, 2022 until January 31, 2023. This suspension is made for the purpose of examining the possibility of adapting national legislation to the judgment of the court of Justice of the European Union on 22 November 2022. In that judgment, following a relevant question from a court of a member state, the court of Justice of the European Union declared invalid the article of Directive (EU) 2018/843 which allows unconditional public access to information on beneficial owners as opposed to the relevant article of Directive (EU) 2015/849 which allows access by demonstration of a legitimate interest.

According to the court, access by the general public to information on the actual ownership of the company concerned constitutes a serious infringement in terms of fundamental rights, namely private life and protection of personal data, enshrined in Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter, respectively. Indeed, the information disclosed allows an unlimited number of persons to be informed about the financial situation of a beneficial owner. Furthermore, the potential consequences for data subjects resulting from possible misuse of their personal data are exacerbated by the fact that, once these data become available to the general public, they can not only be freely collected, but also retained and disseminated.

That said, the court found that, with the measure at issue, the EU legislature seeks to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing by creating, through increased transparency, an environment less likely to be used for such purposes. It considers that in this way the legislator pursues an objective of general interest that can justify even serious interference with the fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter and that general public access to information on real property is appropriate to help achieve this objective.

However, the court considers that the intervention entailed by that measure is not limited to what is strictly necessary for the objective pursued. Furthermore, the provisions at issue allow the public to make available data which are not sufficiently defined and identifiable. The scheme was introduced under the Anti-Money Laundering Directive and amounts to a much more serious interference with the fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter than the previous scheme (which provided for access by competent authorities and certain bodies, for access by any person or organisation capable of demonstrating a legitimate interest), without this interference being outweighed by any benefit that could be derived from the new scheme compared to the previous scheme, with regard to the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The joint decision of the ministers of Finance and State published in September on access to The Register introduced a series of safeguards against public access so that there is no risk to the data of beneficial owners entered in the Register.

However, in order to fully assess the impact of this landmark decision on national legislation and to investigate whether there is a need for adjustments, it is necessary to suspend public access for a specific period of time.

The system shall remain in full operation without affecting registration, update deadlines, as well as the access of competent authorities and obliged persons.