A judgement made on 22 November 2022 in a European Court of Justice has ruled against public access to the information on the register of beneficial owners and cited that this “constitutes a serious interference with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.”
In 2019, Luxembourg adopted a law in accordance with the anti-money laundering directive, which called for the establishment of a register of Beneficial ownership. The register would hold a series of information on the beneficial owners of registered entities. Some of the information recorded in the register is accessible to the general public particularly through the internet.
A case was brought to the Luxembourg District Court by Luxembourgish company and by the beneficial owner of the company where they had been unsuccessful in their request to restrict public access to their information.
When considering the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (“the Charter), the court found that that general public access to the personal information of the owners is an infringement on the fundamental rights to privacy and personal data protection of the beneficial owners as per Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter. The information contained in the registers could disclose the material and financial situation of the owners and could result in their data being used for purposes for which they are unable to give their consent.
Therefore, the ruling made by the justices was “that the provision whereby the information on the beneficial ownership of companies incorporated within the territory of member states is accessible in all cases to any member of the general public, is invalid.”
Bermuda has long resisted efforts to make beneficial ownership registers public and this ruling is an affirmation of their stance held for many years. Bermuda has argued that any authorities who have reasonable cause to identify beneficial owners have always been able to do so.
It still remains to be seen if any future amendments will be made to the anti-money laundering directive in order to allow public access to information in situations beyond a reasonable and legitimate interest.