Following a political agreement with the Council last December, the European Parliament last week formally approved the so-called fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive. The original proposal of the Commission, intended to provide new tools to fight tax fraud and evasion, was strengthened by the MEPs and by Member States representatives with a brand new measure. Following the entry into force of the directive, which will be very shortly, the EU states will be obliged to set up searchable public registers of ultimate owners of all companies and trusts. The registers will be accessible to all persons of legitimate interest – official authorities, but also NGOs and journalists. The access to the registers may be subject to a fee, though. Although many experts and NGOs welcome this measure, they also point out that it is not a panacea. It is not uncommon that ultimate owners are not the same as ultimate beneficiaries of the companies – an aspect that this directive deals with insufficiently in their opinion. There are also new rules for lawyers, consultants and auditors concerning suspicious transactions made by their clients. Also, politically exposed persons will be subject to tougher scrutiny. At the same time as the directive, the MEPs also approved a different one concerning traceability of asset transfers. The measures will need to be transposed into national laws within 2 years.
19th June 2018