Beneficial ownership and AML compliance

What is a beneficial owner?

A beneficial owner of a non-individual customer (for example a corporation or a unit trust) is an individual that controls the customer, or either directly or indirectly owns 25 percent or more of the customer.

AUSTRAC has prepared a summary of beneficial owner identification obligations, to help businesses protect themselves from being exploited for criminal gain. We explore the recommendations and steps set out by AUSTRAC.


Beneficial owner identification obligations


1. Assess

Assess the money laundering/terrorism financing risk posed by the beneficial owners of a business’ customers. It is important to regularly conduct beneficial owner risk assessments, to protect against the risks that a business’ beneficial owners may pose to the business and the Australian public.


2. Determine

Determine the identity of the beneficial owner(s) of its non-individual customers. Complex ownership structures may make it difficult to identify beneficial owners. Often a beneficial owner will not directly own 25 percent of a customer, but may own an interest in another entity which owns an interest in the non-individual customer.


3. Collect

Collect each beneficial owner’s identification information, at minimum the full name of each beneficial owner, as well as either their date of birth or full residential address. This information should be verified using reliable and independent documentation or electronic data. For further information as to what AUSTRAC considers reliable and independent documentation, refer to the AUSTRAC beneficial ownership factsheet.

This resource also provides additional information on the use of disclosure certificates and verification of other individuals, in cases where it is not possible to identify an actual beneficial owner.


4. Keep records

Records should be kept of the beneficial ownership identification processes undertaken, ensuring to demonstrate that each link in a non-individual customer’s chain of ownership has been traced.

Record-keeping requirements are set out in Division 3 of Part 10 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth).


5. Document

Document how the obligations of the business’ specific AML/CTF program will be fulfilled, including:

  • How beneficial owners of non-individual customers will be identified.
  • What information will be collected about each beneficial owner.
  • How this information will be reliably and independently verified.
  • Whether the use of disclosure certificates or the identification of other individuals will be allowed in cases where it is not possible to identify a beneficial owner.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in complex money laundering investigations, assisting companies and individuals the subject of investigations by AUSTRAC, the AFP, ATO and ACIC.

Contact us if you require assistance.