To Bar Money Laundering, Companies on Cyprus Must Name Owners

Αssociated Press

This image provided for Cyprus Press and Informations Office, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, left, Cyprus Minister of Energy, Natasa Pilides, and on screen Greece s Minister of Environment and Energy Kostas Skrekas, talk during a press conference in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Monday, March 8, 2021. (Stavros Ioannides PIO via AP)

Still fighting a reputation for being a haven for money laundering and criminals hiding their wealth, Cyprus - to meet European Union regulations - is now requiring companies based on the island to reveal who really owns them.

It wasn’t said how that would be accomplished or monitored to determine if who is named isn’t a front for someone else but Commerce and Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said the new digital registry that’s online would provide transparency.

“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, reported Al Jazeera.

The news agency earlier had reported apparent corruption in awarding Golden Visas that came with residency permits and EU passports, many given people with criminal records before the scheme was ended late in 2020.

The government also has passed a number of laws trying to prevent the island from being used as a protectorate for criminal groups and wealthy foreigners to hide their assets and income as well as the source of their fortunes.

Companies and other legal entities registered in Cyprus before 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, the news site said.

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 the 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 with the EU planning a single, centralized database.