The Ministry of the Economy announced on Thursday 19 January in a press release that access to the register of beneficial owners for the general public had been temporarily restored, almost three weeks after its interruption, officially “for technical reasons”.
This platform, opened in April 2021, allowed any citizen to easily know the identity of the owners of French companies; it was considered a major step forward in terms of financial transparency and the fight against fraud and money laundering. In July 2022, the weekly The Obsassociated with a collective of independent journalists, had for example used this information to reveal that about sixty personalities implicated in cases of corruption or targeted by sanctions had invested massively in French real estate.
But these data suddenly disappeared from the registry in the early hours of 2023as observed The world. Before deploring a technical malfunction, the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), which ensures the technical management of the register, had assured the Worldon January 4 that beneficial ownership data would now only be “no longer published in open data” due to“a decision of the European Court of Justice”. A reference to the judgment of 22 November 2022 of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which declared illegal the access of the general public to the European registers of beneficial ownersin the name of respect for privacy.
The future terms of access “defined soon”
This decision had already led eight European countries to abruptly suspend access to their registers (the Netherlands, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Luxembourg). A crushing blow for many civil society actors, who use this data to document financial crimes.
This decision by Minister Bruno Le Maire is only provisional, “waiting to draw all the consequences of the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union” November 2022, specifies the press release from Bercy. “The future methods of access to data from the register of beneficial owners, taking into account the CJEU’s decision, will be defined soon, in conjunction with the stakeholders” explains the ministry, while ensuring that ” [les] media outlets and [les] civil society organizations with a legitimate interest” may continue to access the registry.