No state institution in Serbia can guarantee the accuracy of data on companies operating in the country, despite the fact that there are two state registries that record data on owners and the specialized Business Register Agency (APR) with an annual budget of more than one billion dinars and over 400 employees, the research conducted by the investigative website Pištaljka.rs shows.
The quality of the data published in the APR public registers is perhaps best seen in the fact that the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing “expressly prescribed” that when determining the identity of the company’s owner, one must not rely on state’s registers.
Laws on company registration, the Law on the Business Register Agency and the Central Register of Owners, all of which were passed without previous parliamentary debate, in order to quickly harmonize domestic regulations with European ones, prescribe that state institutions are not obligated to check data they dispose of and the responsibility for their accuracy during registration was transferred to the companies themselves. This made it possible to register in Serbia companies that have clandestine ownership, i.e. for which we have no information about the real owners, but the ownership is hidden behind the names of other companies that are listed as owners.
Tracing the names of persons who are real owners is not possible, particularly in the case of foreign companies. Also, these legal solutions do not prevent one person from registering hundreds of companies that have no employees or generate profit and even for the company to be its own owner. The Business Registers Agency (APR) explained that the law stipulates that the formation of companies is done “without examining the accuracy of the information in the application, the credibility of the attached documents and the regularity and legality of the procedures in which the documents were adopted”.
The law was passed 20 years ago in order to speed up the process of company registration, which until then was carried out by the commercial court and required 71 days, according to APR business reports. Now, it takes only five days to legally establish a company.
(Vreme.com, Pištaljka.rs, 03.09.2023)
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