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One year after an EU court ruling on beneficial ownership registers left civil society and journalists in 13 countries encountering obstacles or completely unable to access information regarding companies’ real owners, Transparency International (TI) has published analysis of how different European states have responded by introducing disparate approaches to beneficial ownership access.

The need for a harmonised approach across the EU is clear, according to the NGO that focuses on combating global corruption. 


General access to beneficial ownership registers that had been guaranteed across the union by the 5th EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD5) is now curtailed in many member states since the November 2022 decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union. 

The decision annulled provisions of the AMLD5 that required public access to beneficial ownership information as means to prevent and detect money laundering and predicate offences.

Harmonised system needed

While an EU-wide rule is pending, certain member states have already taken measures to regulate legitimate interest. 

But TI’s analysis reveals that the approaches taken are diverse, highlighting the necessity for a harmonised system across the EU.

Restrictive approaches

Ireland, for example, has implemented a highly restrictive approach. Those wishing to access information must demonstrate engagement in the prevention, detection, or investigation of money laundering or terrorist financing offences. 

The company subject to the access request meanwhile should also be connected with persons convicted – whether in Ireland or elsewhere – of an offence involving money laundering or terrorist financing, or hold assets in a high-risk third country. 

Italy has annulled provisions that determined that beneficial ownership information should be available to the public upon request and without restrictions while in Germany and most other states that have introduced new access regulations, registry authorities are analysing legitimate interest access on a case-by-case basis.

Degrees of openness

Only Luxembourg and Spain allow general as opposed to case-by-case access. Luxembourg has instituted informal agreements with local journalists, while access remains restricted for foreign journalists and civil society. 

Spain has the most comprehensive response so far according to TI. Under a new July 2023 decree, media and civil society organisations that work on issues related to the prevention and fight against money laundering and terrorism financing are presumed to have a legitimate interest and can access the Spanish beneficial ownership register. 

TI’s analysis, EU court ruling on beneficial ownership registers: one year on, need for harmonised approach is clear, can be found here.

This article was sourced from and was republished with their permission.