UAE Ministry of Economy approves action plan to identify beneficial owners of 400,000 companies

The move will support the country's efforts to combat money laundering and the financing of illegal organisations

Dubai skyline.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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The UAE's Economic Integration Committee approved an action plan to identify beneficial owners of more than 400,000 companies registered in the country as it ramps up enforcement of laws on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.

As part of the plan, companies need to register their real beneficiary and list the required data with their regulatory body's  licensing systems, a statement from the Ministry of Economy said on Tuesday.

“The move supports the national efforts in the field of combating money laundering and the financing of illegal organisations, thereby enhancing the UAE’s position in the relevant global indicators,” the ministry said.

The real beneficiary is defined as the person owning the company, or directly or indirectly controlling the company by virtue of owning more than 25 per cent of the entity, and 25 per cent or more of the voting rights.

The Economic Integration Committee is headed by economy minister Abdulla Bin Touq and features representatives from the economic departments of each emirate.

The UAE, which has strict laws to deal with money laundering and the financing of terrorism, has adopted a number of new measures to fight financial crimes in recent months.

The country launched a new agency to combat money launderers and those suspected of financing terrorists and organised crime earlier this year.

A court in Abu Dhabi has also been set up to tackle money laundering and tax evasion cases.

A law requiring both onshore and offshore companies to identify who their ultimate beneficial owner is was passed in August last year.

As part of its action plan, the ministry will hold awareness workshops and provide training to 40 local licensing entities.

“This includes the information of real beneficiary and listing real beneficiary data in the national economic register’s system, to be connected to the systems of the ministry and the local licensing authorities in each emirate,” the ministry said.

The committee also explored plans regarding the implementation of economic substance regulations, which were updated in August last year.

These rules require companies within certain sectors such as banking, insurance, fund management, shipping and intellectual property to demonstrate they have an adequate economic presence within the UAE market.