Beneficial Ownership: A Deep Dive into FATF's Recommendation 24

5 mins

In the complex world of global finance, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plays a pivotal role in maintaining security and integrity. Established in 1989 by the G7 Summit in Paris, the FATF is an inter-governmental body dedicated to setting standards and promoting effective implementation of legal, regulatory, and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. With 39 members comprising 37 member jurisdictions and 2 regional organisations, the FATF's influence extends far beyond its member base, impacting global financial practices and policies.

One of the key concepts at the heart of the FATF's mission is that of 'beneficial ownership'. In the simplest terms, a beneficial owner is the real person who ultimately owns, controls, or reaps the benefits from a company or a legal arrangement, such as a trust. This contrasts with legal ownership, where a company or person is registered as the owner but does not necessarily reap the benefits or exercise control.

The importance of beneficial ownership in financial transparency cannot be overstated. By identifying the real individuals behind companies and legal arrangements, authorities can prevent and detect financial crimes such as money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion. This transparency is crucial for maintaining the integrity of business transactions and the financial system as a whole.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the FATF's Recommendation 24, a key standard aimed at enhancing transparency and understanding of beneficial ownership. Stay tuned as we unpack the complexities of this recommendation and its implications for global financial security.

Understanding Recommendation 24

Recommendation 24, as set forth by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), is a cornerstone in the fight against illicit financial activities. It applies to all legal persons, with the requirements described primarily with reference to companies. However, similar requirements should also be applied to other types of legal persons, taking into account their different forms and structures.

The purpose of Recommendation 24 is to ensure transparency of legal persons. This transparency is crucial in preventing and detecting financial crimes such as money laundering and terrorist financing. Measures implementing this recommendation can apply to both natural and legal persons. For legal certainty, it is important to set out clear rules on the obligations of legal persons.

Over the years, the FATF has made revisions to Recommendation 24 to enhance its effectiveness. For instance, the FATF developed a guidance in 2014, as well as a best practice paper to assist countries in their implementation of Recommendation 24, and also Recommendation 1 as it relates to understanding the ML/TF risks of legal persons and legal arrangements.

One of the key revisions made to Recommendation 24 pertains to the use of nominees. The FATF has outlined specific requirements for dealing with nominees under Recommendation 24, including professional nominee arrangements offered by corporate service providers, professional nominee director and nominee shareholder services offered by corporate service providers, and power of attorney arrangements used in concert with nominee arrangements.

These revisions reflect the FATF's commitment to continually improving and adapting its standards to meet the evolving challenges of financial crime.

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The Importance of Recommendation 24

Recommendation 24 is a crucial tool in the fight against financial crime. It provides a framework for countries to ensure transparency in the ownership and control of legal persons, which is a key feature of national systems' efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. By setting out clear rules on the obligations of legal persons, Recommendation 24 helps to create a level playing field and promotes legal certainty.

The importance of Recommendation 24 becomes even more apparent when we consider real-world examples of financial misconduct resulting from a lack of transparency in beneficial ownership. For instance, opaque ownership structures can be used to hide illicit funds, evade taxes, or facilitate corruption. By requiring countries to maintain accurate and up-to-date information on beneficial ownership, Recommendation 24 helps to close these loopholes and makes it harder for criminals to abuse the financial system.

Moreover, the FATF has taken measures to ensure the effective implementation of Recommendation 24. For example, countries are expected to start making the necessary legislative/administrative changes following the adoption of revised Recommendation 24, and they will be assessed against the new standards from the next (fifth) round of mutual evaluations.

In addition, the FATF provides guidance on how to mitigate the risks of misuse of nominees under Recommendation 24. This includes arrangements mandating acting on behalf of another person. These examples highlight the practical applications of the recommendation and its role in enhancing financial transparency and integrity.

Implementing Recommendation 24

The implementation of Recommendation 24 varies across different countries, reflecting the diversity of legal systems and practices around the world. However, the core principle remains the same: ensuring that basic information and beneficial ownership information is adequate. This involves not only information provided to the company registry but also any available information referred to in paragraph 7 of the Interpretive Note to Recommendation 24.

Countries are expected to start making the necessary legislative/administrative changes following the adoption of revised Recommendation 24. They will be assessed against the new standards from the next (fifth) round of mutual evaluations. This process ensures that countries are held accountable for implementing the recommendations and that they receive feedback on their progress.

However, implementing Recommendation 24 is not without challenges. Countries may face difficulties in collecting and maintaining up-to-date information on beneficial ownership, especially in cases where ownership structures are complex or where owners are based overseas. Moreover, the requirements of Recommendation 24 apply to all legal persons, which means that countries must adapt these requirements to different types of legal persons, taking into account their different forms and structures.

To overcome these challenges, countries may need to strengthen their legal and regulatory frameworks, improve their data collection mechanisms, and enhance cooperation between different authorities. The FATF provides guidance and support to countries in this regard, helping them to implement Recommendation 24 effectively and to address any challenges they may face.

 

The Role of Legal Persons in Recommendation 24

Legal persons play a crucial role in the implementation of Recommendation 24. The requirements of this recommendation apply to all legal persons, and it's important to set out clear rules on their obligations. These obligations are not limited to companies but extend to other types of legal persons, taking into account their different forms and structures.

One of the key obligations of legal persons under Recommendation 24 is to maintain adequate and up-to-date information on beneficial ownership. This information is essential for preventing and detecting financial crimes such as money laundering and terrorist financing. Legal persons are also required to facilitate access by foreign competent authorities to this information, further enhancing international cooperation in the fight against financial crime.

Moreover, the FATF has developed guidance and best practice papers to assist countries and legal persons in their implementation of Recommendation 24. This includes understanding the money laundering and terrorist financing risks of legal persons and legal arrangements. It's important to note that this guidance is non-binding and does not override the purview of national authorities.

In conclusion, legal persons have a significant role and responsibility in ensuring the transparency of beneficial ownership, which is at the heart of Recommendation 24. By fulfilling their obligations under this recommendation, legal persons can contribute to the integrity and stability of the global financial system.

Final Thoughts

Understanding and implementing Recommendation 24 is of paramount importance in the global fight against financial crime. By promoting transparency in the ownership and control of legal persons, this recommendation helps to prevent and detect illicit activities such as money laundering and terrorist financing. It sets clear obligations for legal persons and provides a framework for countries to enhance their legal and regulatory systems.

However, the world of finance is dynamic and ever-evolving, and so are the challenges we face. Therefore, it is crucial to stay informed about the latest updates to the FATF recommendations and other developments in the field of financial security. We encourage you to delve deeper into this topic and to keep abreast of new insights and best practices. Remember, every step we take towards greater transparency and integrity in finance is a step towards a more secure and prosperous world.