Full access to financial data in the pipeline

Almost three years ago to the day, my article “Le cadastre des fortunes arrive” was published under this section. The Central Contact Point (CCP), created by the National Bank of Belgium, has been operational since mid-2015. The CCP is and was the conclusion of the exercise started in 2011 and aimed at recording assets held by private individuals. The CCP is nothing more than a database of all bank accounts, credit agreements and asset management or investment advice contracts. Belgian financial institutions provide the information themselves to the National Bank. Belgians who hold accounts abroad must inform the CCP, specifying which accounts they have and where they are.

Access to the database was initially limited. It could only be used to detect fraud more easily. Three years ago, it was predicted that such access could be quickly expanded, at a simple snap of the legislator’s fingers. 

And this prediction already was partly confirmed in 2016; since then, the CCP information is available to all collection services responsible for tax receivables, but also non-tax. VAT and customs control services have also been offered access to this information. And although this was not in the initial plans, the prosecution services, the investigating judges, the courts in criminal cases and the Financial Intelligence Processing Unit (CTIF-CFI, also called anti-money laundering unit) have also been granted access to the database.

Despite this expansion in 2016, the CCP’s functioning remains rather limited in practice. Under Europe’s pressure to a certain extent, policymakers are now assessing whether this operation should not be urgently boosted and whether the intelligence collected by the database should not be more comprehensive and more practical.

The bill of 1 June 2018 outlines the new blueprint for a super financial database. In the future, the CCP will no longer be part of the National Bank of Belgium. This reform is necessary to enable faster and wider access to information, which is imposed on us by the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, whereby Europe obliges Member States to develop automatic, rapid and efficient data opening in the European Union in the fight against terrorism and money laundering.

As already mentioned, the data stored in the super database will have more depth as regards quality. The definition of “financial institution” subject to the disclosure requirement will be further expanded. This will mean that financial institutions, as well as any institution holding relevant information about the assets of individuals, will be required to cooperate. Financial institutions will also have to provide more information. In the future, a new notification requirement will arise for rented bank vaults and financial transactions involving large cash withdrawals. Currently, only account holders must be included in the CCP; agents are not yet concerned. However, this information is considered useful – and even necessary – in the context of compliance with criminal financial and tax law. That is why, in the future, it should also be included in the super database.

The data stored will not only be more comprehensive, but also accessible to a larger number of people. Imagine that you have debts and that bailiffs want to serve a preventive attachment order. They will soon be able to access information in the super database in the context of civil and commercial matters, in order to recover debts more easily. Similarly, the scope of competence of notaries will be extended when it comes to issuing the declaration of succession.

Three years ago, the article ended on these thoughts: those who think that this database would be viewed only in case of suspicion of fraud are also dreamers. And if they were indeed dreamers, we can now prove it. The prophecy has come true. But everyone will agree on one thing: you don’t need to be Nostradamus to make such a prophecy.