The National Assembly of Panama have officially passed Bill No.169, which means that a private register of beneficial owners of Panamanian legal entities will be established imminently, accessible by authorised agents and designated officers.
The aim of the database is to help the authorities tackle any money laundering and related risks. In June 2019, the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF) placed Panama back on its grey list of monitored countries, citing strategic anti-money laundering deficiencies, resulting in the Panamanian authorities agreeing to transpose it into national law.
When the legislation comes into effect, resident agents will be required to file relevant information regarding all Panama-incorporated legal entities for which they are standing as an agent. All legal entities incorporated in the jurisdiction must now appoint a Panamanian service provider or Solicitor as their resident agent.
FATF’s list of recommendations for Panama
Some of the key suggestions include:
Ensuring adequate verification and update of beneficial ownership information by obliged entities.
Establishing effective mechanisms to monitor the activities of offshore entities.
Assessing the existing risks of misuse of legal persons and arrangements to define.
Implement specific measures to prevent the misuse of nominee shareholders and directors.
Ensuring timely access to adequate and accurate beneficial ownership information.
The jurisdiction’s last update regarding beneficial ownership was back in 2015 with the Law 23 of 27 April 2015, which has since required resident agents to merely carry out due diligence on their client companies’ ultimate beneficial owners. The information will now be collected on the register, under the supervision of the Superintendence of Non-Financial Institutions in Panama.
The register will contain beneficial owners’ following details:
The date the individual became the beneficial owner.
This information will not be available to the public. Only to two designated officers with the required security and technical safeguards per company, all resident agents and registered legal entities.
Penalties for non or late compliance
Panamanian resident agents must enrol with the Superintendence of Non-Financial Institutions and submit the required information within 30 days of the company being incorporated or of being appointed as a Panamanian company’s agent. A special clause grants resident agents of existing companies 6 months to register and obtain the required information. An agent that fails to do this will be required to re-sign as the entity’s resident agent.
Any legal entity whose resident agent has failed to register with the Superintendence will be suspended from the Panamanian Public Registry and removed after omitting to file for two consecutive years.
The guidance also advices that Panamanian resident agents will be fined from USD $1,000-4,000 for each legal entity whose beneficial information is not disclosed or revised accordingly, with incrementally increasing daily fines. Extra penalties will be applied for filing knowingly false information.
The Bill’s date of actualisation will be announced shortly however is currently awaiting the executive branch’s approval.