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Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA): Contents

Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA)
Recognised Jurisdictions and Funds
Declaration Notices
Financial Markets Tribunal
Rulebook Modules
Anti-Money Laundering, Counter-Terrorist Financing and Sanctions Module (AML) [VER16/07-19]
AML 7 Customer Due Diligence
Sourcebook Modules
Consultation Papers
Policy Statements
DFSA Codes of Practice
Amendments to Legislation
Media Releases

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  • AML 7.3.8 Guidance on identification and verification of Beneficial Owners

    4. In determining whether an individual meets the definition of a Beneficial Owner, regard should be had to all the circumstances of the case, in particular the size of an individual's legal or beneficial ownership in a transaction. The question of what is a "minor" ownership interest for the purposes of the definition of a Beneficial Owner in AML Rule 7.3.3 will depend on the individual circumstances of the customer. The DFSA considers that the question of whether an ownership interest is minor should be considered in the context of the Relevant Person's knowledge of the customer and the customer risk assessment and the risk of money laundering.
    5. When identifying Beneficial Owners, a Relevant Person is expected to adopt a substantive (as opposed to form over substance) approach to CDD for legal persons. Adopting a substantive approach means focusing on the money laundering risks of the customer and the product/service and avoiding an approach which focusses purely on the legal form of an arrangement or sets fixed percentages at which Beneficial Owners are identified (or not). It should take all reasonable steps to establish and understand a corporate customer's legal ownership and control and to identify the Beneficial Owner. The DFSA does not set explicit ownership or control thresholds in defining the Beneficial Owner because the DFSA considers that the applicable threshold to adopt will ultimately depend on the risks associated with the customer, and so the DFSA expects a Relevant Person to adopt the RBA and justify on reasonable grounds an approach which is proportionate to the risks identified. A Relevant Person should not set fixed thresholds for identifying the Beneficial Owner without objective and documented justification as required by AML Rule 4.1.1. An overly formal approach to defining the Beneficial Owner may result in a criminal "gaming" the system by always keeping his financial interest below the relevant threshold
    6. The DFSA considers that in some circumstances no threshold should be used when identifying Beneficial Owners because it may be important to identify all underlying Beneficial Owners in order to ensure that they are not associated or connected in some way. This may be appropriate where there are a small number of investors in an account or fund, each with a significant financial holding and the customer-specific risks are higher. However, where the customer-specific risks are lower, a threshold can be appropriate. For example, for a low-risk corporate customer which, combined with a lower-risk product or service, a percentage threshold may be appropriate for identifying "control" of the legal person for the purposes of the definition of a Beneficial Owner.
    7. For a retail investment fund which is widely-held and where the investors invest via pension contributions, the DFSA would not expect the manager of the fund to look through to any underlying investors where there are none with any material control or ownership levels in the fund. However, for a closely-held fund with a small number of investors, each with a large shareholding or other interest, the DFSA would expect a Relevant Person to identify and verify each of the Beneficial Owners, depending on the risks identified as part of its risk-based assessment of the customer. For a corporate health policy with defined benefits, the DFSA would not expect a Relevant Person to identify the Beneficial Owners.
    8. Under Federal AML legislation, if the customer is a legal person, the Relevant Person must identify any person who, alone or jointly with other persons, has a controlling ownership interest of 25% or more in the legal person i.e. it applies a specified threshold. This does not affect the approach that should be taken under AML Rule 7.3.1(1)(b) and AML Rule 7.3.3 for verifying the identity of Beneficial Owners, where no threshold is specified (see Guidance items 4 to 7 above). As a result, under the Federal AML legislation a Relevant Person will need to obtain information identifying natural persons who have a controlling interest of hold more than 25%. Then, in accordance with the risk-based approach in Guidance items 4 to 7, the Relevant Person should determine whether it is necessary also to identify other persons who may be Beneficial Owners, and verify their identity
    Derived from RM117/2013 [VER9/07-13]
    [Amended] DFSA RM196/2016 (Made 7th December 2016). [VER13/02-17]
    [Amended] DFSA RM231/2018 (Made 6th June 2018) [VER15/07-18]
    [Amended] DFSA RM258/2019 (Made 26th June 2019). [VER16/07-19]