HomeBussinessDigitalisation brings Malta Business Registry at par with international standard

Digitalisation brings Malta Business Registry at par with international standard


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“With its evolution into a supervisory authority, the Malta Business Registry today has a stronger role in maintaining an accurate and transparent central register of beneficial ownership information, aiding in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing,” said Geraldine Spiteri Lucas, CEO and Registrar of the MBR.

Are the MBR and the Registrar of Companies the same? And what are their relationship and respective roles?

“While the Registrar of Companies is the individual responsible for all obligations emanating from the Companies Act in relation to the registration of documents, keeping company profiles up to date and ensuring that all updated information is available to the general public, the MBR is the entity established under the Public Administration Act, of which the Registrar is the CEO,” explained Spiteri Lucas.

Having previously formed part of the MFSA, in 2018, the Malta Business Registry was established as a sole entity responsible for the official register of companies and partnerships, and the registration of new commercial partnerships and legal entities.

It is also responsible for issuing certified documentation including certificates of good standing, reserving company names, collecting registration and other fees, publishing notices and imposing and collecting penalties. The Registry also conducts investigations of companies.

“As a governmental entity, it is crucial for the MBR to evolve in alignment with European Directives and international standards that provide peace of mind to the business community and the Maltese jurisdiction as a whole. As money laundering and financial terrorism legislation intensified, the MBR evolved into a Supervisory Authority in terms of Regulation 2 (1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering and Funding of Terrorism Regulations (PMLFTR),” she explained.

According to Dr Spiteri Lucas, the MBR’s role today supports Malta’s efforts to enhance its reputation as an international jurisdiction and in the fight against financial crime.

“Maintaining an accurate and transparent central register of basic and beneficial ownership information for all legal persons is essential in defining acceptable standards undertaken by the MBR on its policies and procedures related to regulatory functions in its fight against money laundering and terrorist finance,” she added.

“Today, with our enhanced investigative tools and our employees’ knowledge and skills to ensure an up-to-date register and a populated BO register, we are assisting entities and authorities better in their investigations. This has brought a major overhaul within the corporate services industry, raising the bar in favour of a more serious Maltese jurisdiction.”

Referring to how continuous investment in technology and digitalization remain at the core of the MBR’s mission to improve customer experience, Dr Spiteri Lucas mentioned the recent introduction of an online platform that enables the incorporation of companies and digital signatures.

“Last year’s CRF Conference showed the urge amongst Registers across the world to adapt and adopt digital methods and following a crucial re-engineering of processes to better understand how our services can be improved, legal analysis in line with GDPR constraints, internal and external testing and the migration of data, the MBR launched its new online platform, BAROS.”

BAROS, or the Business Automation Registry Online System, introduces several features that consolidate MBR’s vision towards digitalization and becoming a paperless entity. Concurrently,

the MBR’s electronic wallet, the Central Data Repository Solution, will drastically decrease bureaucracy and result in decreased costs across the board.

“We conducted an exercise to identify the most commonly requested documentation from government entities and subject persons which enabled us to start promoting the ‘once-only’ principle, meaning that citizens and companies would only need to provide certain information or documentation to the relevant authorities once, ultimately improving efficiency and leading to standardisation and avoiding duplication of work.”

Dr Spiteri Lucas explained how this service will make use of a trust framework under eIDAS regulations and will provide a set of rules and standards for privacy, security, and usability. The framework will also assist in the validation and verification of the legitimacy of government-issued documents. “In this regard, tender preparations are underway to be issued later this year,” she said.

“Through our work, including the screening of all involvements before the registration of companies, we are seeking to make the MBR increasingly transparent. The screening of involvements is crucial and allows the confirmation of identities to demonstrate no involvement in illicit activity.”

In 2022, screening of beneficial owners associated with new companies amounted to 6,683, screening of directors of proposed new companies amounted to 5,390, screening of involvements of administrators and other local representatives of other legal organisations amounted to 1,898, screening of individuals of companies struck off with the defunct procedure amounted to 1,294 and screening of involvement of founders of legal organisations amounted to 85.

A staggering 39,439 screenings of involvements of directors and beneficial owners of existing companies were also carried out in 2022.

Dr Spiteri Lucas explained how the MBR is more intent on offering a more quality service.

“The MBR has been incorporating between 5000 to 6000 companies a year but the decrease in numbers is secondary. We are after good reputable businesses not just numbers and what matters is that all information requested is presented accordingly. If the right information is inputted correctly on our online platform, a company can be incorporated within a day.”

“We have introduced features to our online platform that facilitate the process of linking companies to the corporate account. A singular company link initiation is now required per corporate account, after which all members within that corporate account are automatically linked and as part of this process, board resolutions are systematically uploaded onto the system, enhancing the efficiency and completeness of the linking procedure.

“This systematic approach, which also empowers CSPs to better manage client accounts, not only simplifies the linking process but also ensures that requisite board resolutions are seamlessly integrated into the system, aligning with best practices and regulatory standards,” she added.

Several key developments are being expected in the coming months such as the 6th AML EU Directive enhancing anti-money laundering efforts, the establishment of the EU’s new Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA) in Frankfurt by mid-2025, further digitalisation and updates to the Companies Act, increased reporting obligations under the CSRD for large companies and further modernisation of the Companies Act.

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