More than 100,000 companies in Belgium have still to come into line with a rule introduced in 2019 to fight money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The new rule involves a register of what are known as UBOs – ultimate beneficial owners – or the people who have executive power in a company or who benefit directly from its activities. Shareholders but not employees, although it is possible to be both.
The aim was to allow legitimate companies to register their affairs, while putting pressure on strawman companies or the many other fictitious entities created by money-launderers and terrorist financiers.
The rule on registration applies to sole traders and companies, as well as non-profits and foundations.
The rule was meant to come into force in September last year, but the federal finance ministry decided to allow a period of grace until the end of the year to allow companies to complete the formalities.
However almost eight months later, the ministry has a register of 574,799 companies and 59,749 non-profits, De Tijd reports in its finance supplement Netto. That means there are 117,900 companies out there, and 74,250 non-profits, who have still to comply.
The law introducing the new rule also allows for fines for companies that do not comply. Those range from €250 to €50,000. However the ministry is not ready to start imposing fines just yet, spokesperson Francis Adyns said.
“We haven’t really started with the warnings yet, but with a quantitative and qualitative review of our database. We are currently sending reminders to companies that have yet to register,” he said.
“We will do that spread over time in order to be able to answer any questions the companies have properly. We have already sent out 17,000 reminders and we will continue to do that in the coming weeks.”
On top of the numbers who have yet to register, there are a further 24,000 companies to did register, but made some mistake or other. That brings the total of those in default to 216,150.
According to those companies who have registered correctly, the number of UBOs or beneficiaries comes to 767,605, an average of 1.2 per company. If that multiplier is applied to those still in default, the number of individuals risking an eventual fine could be as high as 260,000.