Companies Office ready to lift the veil on corporate owners
Registrar of Companies Judith Ramlogan says the Companies Office of Jamaica is now ready to begin collecting information on the true or beneficial owners of companies.
It follows amendments to the Companies Act in June that will see the Companies Office, of which Ramlogan is also CEO, rolling out amended company incorporation and annual return forms to facilitate the disclosures. Those forms became available as of Monday, December 18.
A beneficial owner must be identified as an individual, even in circumstances where an entity is owned by a company, the Companies Office said.
Recipients of the new forms will now be required to provide the names of persons who are considered beneficial owners of the company in accordance with the requirements of the law, which defines them as "anyone that exercises ultimate ownership of a company or the individual on whose behalf the shares are held or on whose behalf a share transaction is conducted".
Ownership in some local companies are held through offshore and other corporate vehicles, masking the identity of the beneficial owners. The amendment to the law now requires the shareholders of those corporate vehicles to be disclosed on Companies Office of Jamaica records.
Its intent is 'to lift the veil' on the true owners of offshore registered companies.
Earlier in the year, Ramlogan explained that the law had been fast tracked to avoid blacklisting of the country by both the Global Forum and European Union.
The law also mandate that companies retain records, including information on legal and beneficial owners, for a period of seven years.
SENSITISATION SESSIONS HELD
The implementation of the amendments follows sensitisation sessions in various parishes "that sought to inform customers of the impending changes and obtain feedback from them as to how the forms could be made more user friendly," Ramlogan said in a Companies Office release.
"From these engagement sessions, adjustments were made to ensure that they are user-friendly and capture the specific information required such as the name, nationality and address of the beneficial owner," she said.
The new provisions in the law, the registrar said, are meant to establish an accurate register and ensure that persons doing business in Jamaica "are legitimate operators and not engaging in business for illegitimate purposes" and that the inclusion of beneficial owner "is to lift the veil, so to speak, on who is really exercising true control of a company".