A new digital registry obliging Cyprus-based companies to declare their true owners puts the east Mediterranean island nation in line with European Union regulations against “terrorism” financing and organised crime, the country’s commerce and energy minister said on Tuesday.
Natasa Pilides said the new registry, which went online last month, bolsters transparency in what is often a murky web of false fronts behind which money laundering and other illicit activities can take place.
“Recording the correct and updated information regarding the true beneficiary is instrumental in tracking down criminals who would otherwise conceal their identity behind a company structure,” said Pilides.
Cyprus has for years been struggling to shed its spotty reputation as a money-laundering haven, to protect its fragile economy and to attract foreign investment. The country of 900,000 has adopted a raft of new laws to ward off nefarious businesses from taking advantage of low corporate taxes.
All companies and other legal entities registered in Cyprus prior to March 16 have 12 months to sign up for the Cypriot government portal Ariadni and declare the true owner — defined as any individual holding more than 25 percent of shares, the majority of voting rights or exercising effective control of the entity through other means such as family connections.
Companies that have registered after March 16 have 30 days to provide the information.
If no individual meets the ownership requirements, then a senior executive must be declared as owner.
Access to the ownership information will be restricted to Cyprus police and financial crimes investigators for the next year. Public access to this information could be granted in 2022.
The EU aims to put all member states’ company registries listing the true owners in a single, centralised database.