Advisory Opinion EFTA Court beneficial ownership and General Data Protection regulation

In its decision of 22 December 2020, the EFTA Court issued its Advisory opinion regarding Article 30(1) of Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing (AML4).

The Advisory Opinion was issued pursuant to the request of the Liechtenstein’s Princely Court of Appeal (Fürstliches Obergericht) in the case between Bergbahn Aktiengesellschaft Kitzbühel vs. Meleda Anstalt (case E-10/19).

According to the Court Article 30 (1) AML4 must be interpreted as requiring a legal entity to take reasonable measures to seek to confirm the identity of its beneficial owner, such as requiring underlying documentation, when the circumstances of a situation present it with doubts as to the accuracy of the information received.

The obligation of a legal entity under Article 30(1) is not altered by the fact that the owning entity is a legal person with a registered office in an EEA State nor by the profession of its board members.

It is for the referring court to ascertain to what extent the information on beneficial ownership processed is in line with the principle of data minimization in point (c) of Article 5(1) of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data by being adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary to identify the beneficial owner and, if needed, to confirm the identity of the beneficial owner.

Point (v) of Article 3(6)(b) and point (c) of Article 3(6) of Directive (EU) 2015/849 cannot be interpreted as obliging anyone to prove the non- existence of indirect ownership or ultimate control by a natural person.

Vide the judgment: