Bermuda Beneficial Ownership Register to be made Public

Bermuda Beneficial Ownership Register to be made Public

About Jeremy LeeseJeremy Leese

Jeremy’s practice focuses on corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, corporate reorganisations and restructurings, banking and international real estate finance, structured finance, as well as regulatory and legislative compliance.

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The Government of Bermuda has announced its intention to make the companies’ central register of beneficial ownership information accessible to the public. The beneficial ownership register contains information on the owners of the approximately 15,000 companies registered in Bermuda and has information such as the name, address, passport number, date of birth, and percentage of shareholding.

No details have been provided as to the extent to which information will be made public. However, if the entire contents of the register becomes public, it will surely create a myriad of legitimate privacy and security concerns.

Currently, the register is only accessible by competent government entities and law enforcement agencies. In this day and age where data protection is of the utmost importance, it makes sense that only a limited number of vetted and responsible authorities have access to potentially sensitive information.

Nevertheless, the Bermuda Government has evidenced its ongoing resolve to follow the international corporate transparency guidelines set out by the FATF and the OECD, stating that granting public access to the beneficial ownership register will assist in the prevention and detection of domestic and cross-border crime. That being said, one could easily imagine that the register, which we presume will be electronically accessible, will quickly become a prime target for hackers and fraudsters who seek to exploit the opportunity to easily gain access to thousands of persons’ personal information.

The Government will present proposals to the Legislature to establish public access to the register, within 12 months of the publication of the European Union’s 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive, which is expected to be published in January 2022. Given this timeline, the register could become accessible by the public at some stage during 2022.