The government is reviewing a ruling by the European Union’s Court of Justice that declared making the details of beneficial owners public illegal.

Former chief minister Howard Quayle previously committed to a publicly available register for next year.

A publicly available register has been a key component of the EU’s anti-money laundering directives for several years, with international jurisdictions, like the Isle of Man, following suit in order to observe what has been termed ‘international standards’.

However, following a case that originated in Luxembourg, which has a public register, the ECJ has now ruled that ‘the provision whereby the information on the beneficial ownership of companies incorporated within the territory of the member states is accessible in all cases to any member of the general public is invalid’.

The court found that making such information public excessively infringed on an individual’s right to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.

While it didn’t say that there should never be public access, the ruling does infringe on the move towards global publicly open registers, particularly given the EU’s position as a leader on the matter. 

In the Isle of Man, successive governments have committed to following international standards. 

Following Brexit, the UK is no longer subject to rules regarding member states. This means that the Westminster government will need to make a decision as to how it responds, something it has not yet done publicly.

Meanwhile, in the island, where a commitment to follow international best practice could see the registers remain closed to the general public, Alfred Cannan and Alex Allinson also have a decision to make.

If the island is to press ahead with its plans to open the books, this could lead to businesses choosing to relocate to other jurisdictions, but failing to do so could also create issues with the island’s international reputation. 

A spokesman told the Examiner: ‘Following the judgment of the ECJ, the Isle of Man government is carefully reviewing the ruling and its implications. The Isle of Man government remains committed to adhering to international standards in line with its proven track record as a responsible jurisdiction and partner.’

The European Court of Justice, which is an EU body, is sometimes confused with the European Court of Human Rights, which is not an EU body.