Luxembourg's Ministry of Justice has announced the temporary suspension of public access to the Register of Beneficial Owners (Registre des Bénéficiaires Effectifs - RBE) following a recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

On Tuesday 22 November 2022, the CJEU ruled that public access to information on the beneficial owners of private businesses, in the framework of the European Union's (EU) anti-money-laundering directive, is invalid. The debate centred around transparency versus privacy, with the CJEU ultimately ruling in favour of the latter.

Luxembourg's Justice Ministry noted that, in application of European law guaranteeing respect for private life and the protection of personal data, the CJEU on Tuesday invalidated the provision of the fifth anti-money laundering directive providing for public access to the registers of beneficial owners by EU Member States.

The ministry added that this judgment, taken on a preliminary ruling from the Luxembourg District Court in a dispute between third parties and the Luxembourg Business Register (LBR), highlighted that access without distinction of user quality, although imposed by the text of the directive transposed into Luxembourg law, is in particular contrary to Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The ruling found that this access constitutes an interference with the rights guaranteed by the aforementioned Charter which is not limited to what is strictly necessary and proportionate to the objective pursued.

In view of the CJEU's decision, Luxembourg's Minister of Justice, Sam Tanson, in consultation with the LBR, which is responsible for managing the RBE, has decided to temporarily suspend public access to the RBE via the LBR internet portal. The ministry specified that this suspension does not apply to the competent national authorities which benefit from dedicated access via an intranet portal, allowing them to continue to carry out tasks related to the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

At a parliamentary justice committee meeting on Wednesday 23 November 2022, Minister Tanson told members of parliament (MPs) that the Ministry of Justice, the LBR and the Government IT Centre (Centre des technologies de l'information de l'État - CTIE) are working on a technical and legal solution allowing rapid access to the register for certain professionals relating to the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, as well as for the press and civil society organisations with a link to the prevention and fight against money laundering and terrorist financing and which have a legitimate interest in accessing beneficial ownership information.

With regard to professionals subject to obligations in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, the ministry recalled that they must conduct their own analyses as part of the verification of the identity of beneficial owners, the RBE being an additional tool allowing them to compare the result of their analysis with the data appearing in the RBE.

The Luxembourg Government will also contact the services of the European Commission in particular, in order to discuss together the consequences of the ruling in question and to find out whether solutions are envisaged at European level.