The Dutch finance ministry has told the Chamber of Commerce to close off a register which allows people to find out who owns companies to outsiders, following the European court ruling on Tuesday.  

Wieger ten Hove, partner at law firm Eversheds Sutherland International, said in a briefing note yesterday (23 November) that there could be major implications for UBO-registers throughout the EU, after the European Court of Justice ruled on 22 November that registers should be closed to the general public, but remain open to the tax office and financial fraud investigators. 

"The Court ruled that while the UBO (Ultimate Beneficial Ownership) register pursues an objective of general interest that may justify an interference with fundamental rights, the measure goes beyond what is strictly necessary and is disproportionate to the objective pursued. 

"The privacy of UBOs is violated by the disclosure of personal data and Member States must have appropriate safeguards in place to protect the privacy and personal data of UBOs."

He said "the Dutch Minister of Finance has requested (effective 23 November 2022) the Dutch Chamber of Commerce to put the disclosure of information from the UBO-register on hold. 

"Until further notice, the Dutch Chamber of Commerce has suspended the ability to access the Dutch UBO-register. However, Dutch anti-money-laundering institutions still have the legal obligation to consult the UBO-register before entering into a professional relationship. The ruling does not affect the obligation for Dutch legal entities to register their UBOs and this obligation therefore remains in place."

Geoff Cook, chair and non-executive director of Mourant Consulting said in an early LinkedIn reaction comment: "Interesting to see the Netherlands dismantling public registers following ECJ judgement. A win for individual human rights and a roll back of the overbearing State in my view, and very welcome."