Almost 30,000 companies have yet to make updated disclosures about their Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBOs) and could face hefty fines for non-compliance, MPs said on Tuesday.

The House commerce committee again discussed the issue of the UBOs that need to be filed by corporate entities.

Under a directive issued by the Registrar of Companies, all companies should have filed their updated UBO data by December 31, 2023. Companies not complying would be fined €200 on January 1, 2024, and €100 per every continuing day of non-compliance. But following a host of complaints by the business community, that deadline was extended to the end of March – which has since elapsed.

Committee chair Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis (Disy) said that whereas most companies have complied, some 30,000 have not.

He said parliament had asked the government to summon a meeting with all stakeholders to discuss the matter, but their call fell on deaf ears.

“Instead they [the government] talk among themselves, decide among themselves, make recommendations by themselves,” complained Hadjiyiannis. “They just want to bark orders and have the economy obey.”

Stavros Papadouris, an MP with the Greens, cited data provided by the Registrar of Companies – showing that of the 202,000 registered companies, 163,000 have filed their updated UBOs.

Of the remaining 39,000, around 10,000 are exempt from declaring their UBOs either because they had filed for deletion from the registry prior to passage of the relevant law or because they are under liquidation.

That leaves about 29,000 still non-compliant. Papadouris recalled that individuals associated with non-compliant companies – such as shareholders, directors, administrators – are all legally liable.

We’d like to know what these companies are about, in order to understand what the problem is.”

The MP also recalled that the maximum fine for such non-compliance can reach €20,000.

During an earlier parliamentary discussion, MPs had urged authorities to come up with a solution fast, so that Cyprus as a whole doesn’t end up getting more bad publicity over the existence of shell companies – as happened with the release of the Panama Papers.

At the same time, legislators expressed concern that many small family-owned businesses might be “crushed” by the severe fines for not stating their UBOs on time.