Tens of thousands of Irish companies are facing prosecution and fines of up to €500,000 for having failed to record their details with the new Register of Beneficial Ownership.
The mandatory Register of Beneficial Ownership (RBO) has been established under the EU's fourth money laundering directive, commonly known as MLD4. Registers are being established across the bloc. The register contains beneficial ownership details of all companies and societies established in each state.
Despite companies and societies facing fines on summary conviction of €5,000 and up to €500,000 on indictment, thousands of them have still failed to register. The registration deadline was November 22.
As of last week, 171,197 companies, or 74pc of those that were registered with the Companies Registration Office as of the end of June, had registered their beneficial ownership details with the RBO.
The remaining 26pc that had not registered equate to 58,790 companies.
In addition, 525 industrial and provident societies, or 55pc of the total in existence at the end of last June, had filed details with the RBO. A total of 438 had yet to register as of last week.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation told the Irish Independent that the registrar of the RBO would examine each delinquent company or society on a case-by-case basis.
"If a company has not yet filed, the registrar will issue a letter reminding the company of its obligation to file, with a practical and proportionate approach taken on a case-by-case basis as to any further action required," she said. "It should be noted that all newly incorporated companies and industrial and provident societies have five months from incorporation to register their beneficial ownership details."
But the Companies Registration Office has warned businesses and societies that missed the deadline are in breach of the law.
"Those companies referred to will be in breach of the law and at risk of enforcement proceedings being taken against them," the companies registrar told a stakeholder meeting last month, just days before the RBO deadline approached.
"We will initially send a reminder letter, but this will be likely to extend to prosecution at some point in the future as we are legally required to ensure that the RBO is adequate, accurate and current," the registrar told the meeting, according to its minutes.
There was a surge in RBO registrations in the days before the deadline. By November 13, some 5,500 RBO filings were being received every day.
But an average of 25pc of all attempted registrations were being rejected.