Sixty-seven companies are facing removal from the Companies Office of Jamaica’s (COJ) Register of Companies for failing to file mandatory beneficial ownership information following service of notices advising them of their delinquent status.
These companies failed to comply with two notices sent to their registered offices by the COJ, first in June 2023 and then in July 2023 with the requirement to comply by September 2023.
Subsequently, the publication of the first removal notices in the newspaper followed on October 15, 2023, November 5, 2023, and December 31, 2023, as required by the Companies Act.
Following these publications and the companies’ failure to update their records, the COJ is empowered to remove these companies after 90 days have passed, respectively.
Hence, companies listed in the first removal notice published on October 15, 2023, were removed on December 29, 2023; companies included in the November 5, 2023, and December 31, 2023 press advertisements will be removed by the end of January and March 2024, respectively if there is no compliance.
These companies are among the first batch of companies facing removal under Section 377F of the Companies Amendment Act 2023 – failure to provide beneficial ownership information.
The Companies Amendment Act 2017 created the obligation to provide beneficial ownership information; the companies being removed have not provided the required information, from 2017 to present.
Under the Companies Amendment Act 2023 companies are served with two consecutive notices requiring them to comply within 30 and 60 days, respectively or face removal.
The Companies Act was amended on March 31, 2023, to strengthen Jamaica’s beneficial ownership regime to facilitate business persons being able to trade freely globally and access correspondent banking facilities through the removal of the country from the Financial Action Task Force’s money-laundering grey list.
These amendments include the introduction of proportionate, effective and dissuasive sanctions. Delinquent companies face fines of up to five million dollars ($5,000,000) for not filing beneficial ownership information but they may also be struck off from the Register of Companies.
Shellie Leon, CEO and Registrar at the COJ noted:”The Agency’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing Terrorism Unit has issued 810 notices to delinquent companies in Jamaica to gain compliance. We have been getting correspondence from some of these companies indicating their willingness to comply and we are working to facilitate these entities as best as possible.”
Leon continued: “It is not a matter of going after businesses, but we must begin to operate in and create a culture of compliance and transparency. Where there is non-compliance, we are required by the legislation to remove these companies from the Register of Companies.
As an agency, the COJ has committed significant resources to facilitating voluntary compliance with the Companies Act. As such, in April 2023, the COJ launched its Beneficial Ownership Hub for customers to learn more about the amendments to the Companies Act. The platform which has more than 119,000 visits has presentations, interviews, and forms relating to beneficial ownership and boasts a chat feature. The website can be accessed via www.bohubjamaica.com.
Further, in early 2024 the agency will launch an online beneficial ownership training course to educate stakeholders on the beneficial ownership requirements under the Companies Act.