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The uncertain future of beneficial ownership register

The judgment of the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the EU (the "CJEU") of 22 November 2022 in the preliminary ruling procedure brought an unexpected conclusion regarding the disclosure of data on beneficial owners of legal persons in the context of anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing measures. The CJEU ruled that the provision of the AML Directive[1] on the obligation of Member States to ensure that information on beneficial owners is accessible to "any person in the general public" is invalid.

The CJEU concluded that the disclosure of personal data of beneficial owners to the general public constitutes a serious interference with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU in Articles 7 and 8. The CJEU further stressed that the current version of the AML Directive constitutes a greater interference with these rights than the original version, which required a demonstration of "legitimate interest" for disclosure of personal data of beneficial owners. 

The AML Directive was implemented by the Czech Republic by Act No. 37/2021 Coll., on the registration of beneficial owners, which created the register of beneficial owners. Legal entities are obliged to record their beneficial owners in the Register of Beneficial Owners, which is publicly accessible to the general public without restriction. It is therefore not yet clear what effect the CJEU judgment will have on the registration of beneficial owners in the Czech Republic and other EU Member States

[1] Directive (EU) 2018/843 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive (EU) 2015/849 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering or terrorist financing and Directives 2009/138/EC and 2013/36/EU.

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