LEGAL INFORMATION AND UPDATE
法律快訊

3rd Issue (December 2017)

第三期 (2017年12月)

Companies (Amendment) Bill 2017

2017年公司(修订)条例草案

   A. INTRODUCTION

The Companies (Amendment) Bill 2017 (the “Bill”) was published by the Hong Kong government on 23 June 2017 as part of the effort to bring the regulatory regime on combating money laundering and terrorist financing in Hong Kong in line with international standards.

 

 

The proposed new law aims at introducing greater transparency to the beneficial ownership of Hong Kong incorporated companies. The Bill, if passed by the Legislative Council, is expected to take effect from 1 March 2018.

   B. HOW IT COULD AFFECT YOU

Applicable companies and their officers will be subject to the continuing duties of keeping and maintaining a Significant Controllers Register (“Register”) and investigating and obtaining information about its Significant Controllers, whether or not they actually have any.

 

 

Applicable Company

The requirements under the Bill are applicable to all companies incorporated in Hong Kong except:

  1. listed companies; or

  2. companies belonging to a class which is exempted by regulations that may be made by the Financial Secretary of Hong Kong.

Companies incorporated overseas or having registered branches or representative offices in Hong Kong under Part 16 of the Companies Ordinance (Cap. 622) do not fall within the scope of the Bill.

 

 

Who is a Significant Controller?

A Significant Controller may be a Registrable Person or a Registrable Legal Entity.

 

 

A Registrable Person is a natural person (or specified entities such as government authorities and international organisations) which holds, directly or indirectly:

  1. more than 25% of the issued shares or voting rights in the applicable company; or

  2. the right to appoint or remove a majority of the board of directors of the applicable company; or

  3. the right to exercise, or actually exercises, significant influence or control over the applicable company (for instance, through a trust or a firm, if any trustee or member satisfies any of these criteria).

 

 

However, natural persons or specified entities that have significant control over the company due to the following reasons only are not considered Registrable Persons:

  1. the person or entity holds or has rights or shares in the company through a Registrable Legal Entity of the company, and this Registrable Legal Entity has any of its shares listed on a recognized stock market; or

  2. the person or entity holds or has rights or shares in the company through a chain of legal entities with the last one in the chain being a Registrable Legal Entity of the company, and this Registrable Legal Entity has any of its shares listed on a recognized stock market.

The Bill contains further provisions on determining whether the above criteria are met.

 

 

A Registrable Legal Entity is an incorporated or unincorporated Hong Kong or overseas legal entity which meets any of the above criteria and is a member of the applicable company. This means that indirect parent companies of the applicable company will not be regarded as a Registrable Legal Entity and hence a Significant Controller, although their beneficial owners may still be a Registrable Person.

 

 

Obtaining Information about Significant Controllers

The applicable company must take reasonable steps to ascertain whether it has any Significant Controllers and to obtain information about them by, subject to exceptions, serving a notice to a person within 7 days if the applicable company knows, or has reasons to believe, that:

  1. such person is a Significant Controller;

  2. such person knows the identity of another person or entity which is a Significant Controller; or

  3. a registrable change prescribed under the Bill has occurred to such person.

 

 

 

The notice should require the addressee to confirm the subject matter and to give the relevant particulars. Within 7 days after the applicable company confirms or has knowledge of the registrable particulars, the applicable company must enter them in the Register.

 

 

Currently, it is not mandatory that Significant Controllers voluntarily disclose their status to the applicable company. However, unless an exception under the Bill applies, a person on whom the notice was served (and every related person of the entity, if the addressee is a legal entity) must comply with its requirements within 1 month from the date of such notice, failing which the person commits an offence and may face a maximum penalty of HK$25,000.

 

 

Inspection of the Register

The applicable company must allow inspection of the Register, upon demand, by Significant Controllers whose particulars are entered in it and law enforcement officers of various statutory bodies including the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Securities and Futures Commission, the Inland Revenue Department, and the Independent Commission Against Corruption. There is no right of the public to inspect the Register as of now.

 

 

    C. DUTIES AT A GLANCE

New statutory duties imposed on an applicable company and its officers may be summarised as follows:

  1. Duty to keep a Register;

  2. Duty to ascertain and obtain information about Significant Controllers;

  3. Duty to update the Register upon any person ceasing to be a Significant Controller, any change which may result in the particulars in the Register being incomplete or inaccurate and other prescribed changes under the Bill;

  4. Duty to make available the Register for inspection by specified persons;

  5. Duty to appoint a designated representative (who must be a natural person and a director, employee or member of the applicable company residing in Hong Kong, or an accountant or legal professional) to assist compliance with the new law and to liaise with law enforcement officers and the Companies Registry; and

  6. Duty to notify the Registrar of Companies of the location of the Register and any change thereof.

 

 

    D. SANCTIONS FOR NON-COMPLIANCE

An applicable company and every responsible person of it commit an offence and will be subject to a maximum fine of HK$25,000 and HK$700 extra each day (for continuing offences) if the applicable company fails to:

  1. keep a Register at the prescribed place or to notify the Register of Companies of the place at which the Register is kept;

  2. enter prescribed particulars in the Register within the specified period; or

  3. investigate and obtain information about its Significant Controllers.

 

Penalties apply to the failure to comply with other statutory duties under the Bill.

 

    E. OUR TAILORED SERVICES

  • We can provide updates and legal advice on any questions you may have on the Bill before and after it is promulgated.

  • We offer a full range of legal services to help you and your company fulfil the statutory duties, including the creation and maintenance of the Register and preparation of the requisite notices.

  • We can come up with bespoke and comprehensive plans to facilitate your company in the long run which may cover internal compliance guidelines and our service as designated representative.

 

 

IMPORTANT

This publication is for your general reference only, and cannot be relied upon as legal advice in any individual case. We do not accept any responsibility whatsoever in respect of this publication. Please contact our solicitors if any advice is needed. If you wish to unsubscribe, please inform us by email at mail@allawyers.com.hk.  

                                                                                                                        

 

甲部:简介

2017年公司(修订)条例草案(”条例草案”)由香港政府于2017年6月23日刊发,致力使香港在打击洗黑钱和恐怖分子融资的监管制度更符合国际标准。

 

 

条例草案旨在提升香港注册公司的实益所有权的透明度。如获立法会通过,条例草案预计将于2018年3月1日生效。

 

 

乙部:条例草案对您的影响

适用公司以及其职员将承担备存及更新重要控制人登记册(“登记册”)的持續责任,并须调查和索取相关重要控制人的资料,不论该公司是否有任何重要控制人。

 

 

适用公司

条例草案适用于所有于香港成立的法人公司,除了:

  1. 上市公司;或

  2. 属于由香港财政司司长制定的规例下所豁免的类别之公司。

 

海外注册的法人公司或根据公司条例(第622章)第16部在香港注册的分支机构或代表办事处则不属于条例草案的管核范畴。

 

 

谁是重要控制人?

重要控制人可以是须登记人士或须登记法律实体。

 

 

须登记人士指自然人(或指明实体:例如政府机构和国际组织)直接或间接持有:

  1. 该公司25%以上的已发行股份或表决权;或

  2. 委任或罢免该公司董事局的过半数董事的权利;或

  3. 权利或实际上对该公司行使或发挥重大影响力或控制(例如透过信託或商号,且该信托或商号成员符合以上条件)。

 

 

然而,由于以下原因而对有关公司拥有重大控制权的自然人或指明实体将不被视为须登记人士:

  1. 该人或该实体通过该公司的须登记法律实体持有或拥有该公司的权利或股份,而该须登记法律实体有股份在认可的证券市场上市;

  2. 该人或该实体通过连锁法律实体持有或拥有该公司的权利或股份,而在该连锁中的最后一个法律实体为该公司的须登记法律实体及有股份在认可的证券市场上市。

 

 

 

以上条件详情见条例草案。

 

 

 

须登记法律实体是指符合上述有关须登记人士的任何条件且为该公司成员的香港或海外法人或非法人法律实体。这意味该公司的间接母公司将不会被视为该公司的须登记法律实体(及重要控制人),但该间接母公司的实益拥有人可能被视为该公司的须登记人士。

 

 

获取重要控制人的资料

适用公司必须采取合理步骤确定是否有任何重要控制人。若该公司知道或有理由相信:

  1. 某人为重要控制人;

  2. 某人知悉其他人或实体为重要控制人;或

  3. 就某人而言,发生有条例草案所列明的须登记更改,

该公司须在七天内(例外情况除外)向该人发出通知要求获取相关资料。

 

 

 

 

该通知应要求收件人确认事项并提供相关细节。适用公司在确认或知道登记细节后的七天内必须将相关登记细节列入登记册。

 

 

 

目前,重要控制人无须主动向适用公司披露其身份。但是,除条例草案所列明的情况外,收到通知的人或法律实体的相关人士(如收件者为法律实体)必须在通知日起的一个月内遵守该通知要求,否则即属违法,最高可被判罚款港币25,000元。

 

 

 

 

查阅登记册

适用公司必须应以下人士要求提供登记册供其查阅:其细节已记载入登记册的重要控制人及条例草案下列明的法定机构(包括香港金融管理局、证券及期货事务监察委员会、税务局及廉政公署)的执法人员。目前公众无权查阅登记册。

 

 

 

 

丙部:责任一览

以下总结施加于适用公司和其职员的新法定责任:

  1. 备存登记册;

  2. 确认及获取相关重要控制人资料;

  3. 就任何人士停止担任重要控制人、任何可能导致登记册不完整或不准确的变更及条例草案指明的须登记变更,更新登记册;

  4. 提供登记册供特定人员查阅;

  5. 委任指定代表(必须是自然人以及居住于香港的该公司董事、雇员、成员或会计师或法律专业人员)协助该公司遵守新法例并与有关执法人员和公司注册处联系配合;和

  6. 通知公司注册处处长关于登记册备存地点及其变更。

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

丁部:违反新法例的后果

如适用公司未能遵守以下规定,该公司及其负责人均属违法并面临最高港币25,000元及之后每日港币700元罚款:

  1. 在指定地点备存登记册或将登记册所备存的地点通知公司注册处处长;

  2. 在指定期间将规定的登记细节记录于登记册中;或

  3. 调查及获取相关重要控制人的资料。

 

条例草案亦载有因没有履行其他法定责任而须负上的刑罚。

 

 

 

戊部:我们的服务

  • 我们可为您对条例草案颁布前后所提出的任何问题提供更新资讯及法律意见。

  • 我们提供全方位的法律服务(包括建立及更新登记册及准备重要控制人通知),帮助您及贵司履行法定职责。

  • 我们能为您制定长远而全面的商业合规计划,可包括相关员工合规指引及由本所担任新法例下的指定代表的服务。

 

 

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