Irish Companies Registration Office Launches Beneficial-Ownership Registry Website

On April 26, the Companies Registration Office Ireland (CRO) announced that it had launched its new website for the Registry of Beneficial Ownership (RBO).  The CRO, which servs as  the central repository of public statutory information on Irish companies and business names, stated that the new RBO is “the central repository of statutory information required to be held by relevant entities in respect of the natural persons who are their beneficial owners/controllers, including details of the beneficial interests held by them.”

“Relevant entities,” for purposes of the RBO, fall into two categories: (1) companies that formed and registered under the Irish Companies Act 2014, or an existing company within the meaning of that Act; and (2) industrial and provident societies (I&Ps) registered under the Irish Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893 to 2018.  Those entities will be required to file their beneficial-ownership data with the RBO through an on-line portal that will open on the new RBO website on June 22.  After that date, according to the CRO, companies and I&Ps will have five months to file their RBO data “without being in breach of their statutory duty to file.”

Breach of that duty, however, can result in significant sanctions.  The Times reported that a company that fails to properly keep a beneficial-ownership register or to comply with requests from authorities can be fined up to €500,000, while an individual who knowingly or recklessly provides information that is “false in a material particular” can receive a custodial sentence of up to 12 months’ confinement.

Note: The new RBO is one of the measures that the Irish Government has been pursuing – with some prodding from the European Commission — to combat white-collar crime, including anti-money laundering (AML) related measures.  Like other European Union (EU) Member States, Ireland is obligated to comply with the EU’s Fourth AML Directive. That Directive requires, among other things, that financial institutions identify beneficial owners as part of their customer due diligence, that corporate and other legal entities incorporated within their territory obtain and hold adequate, accurate, and current information on their beneficial ownership, and that each Member State hold such beneficial-ownership information in a central register.

The CRO stresses that the RBO website itself is not open to the public.  The Times, however, reported that certain information will be made available to the public, such as the names of beneficial owners, what percentage of each company they hold, their places of birth, and their countries of residence.  Irish authorities with a legitimate interest, including Revenue Commissioners, the Irish police Garda Síochána, and the Irish Central Bank, may receive more substantial information.

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