Ultimate Beneficial Ownership (UBO) Checks in Southeast Asia

Ultimate Beneficial Ownership (UBO) Checks in Southeast Asia

Understanding the ultimate beneficial ownership (UBO) is crucial in Southeast Asia to tackle corruption and prevent money laundering, terrorism financing, and other illicit activities. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that countries in this region are highly secretive regarding the ownership transparency of legal entities and wealth.

What is an Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO)?

The definition of UBO varies by jurisdiction, as each has its own standards and rules. According to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a beneficial owner is the “natural person(s) who ultimately owns or controls a customer and the natural person on whose behalf a transaction is being conducted. It also includes those natural persons who exercise ultimate effective control over a legal person or arrangement. Only a natural person can be the ultimate beneficial owner, and more than one natural person can be the ultimate beneficial owner of a given legal person or arrangement.”


Why is UBO Check Important?

UBO checks are vital for company registries and regulatory authorities to ensure business ownership transparency (BOT) with accurate and up-to-date information. This transparency is essential to prevent financial crimes, ensure national regulatory compliance, manage risks, and adhere to international UBO standards.

Company Registries and Regulations in Southeast Asia

Unlike Western countries, Southeast Asian nations lack centralised UBO registries. Here is an overview of the relevant company registries and their UBO regulations:


1. Philippines | Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

All foreign and domestic SEC-registered corporations must submit the General Information Sheet (GIS), which provides beneficial ownership information.

2. Singapore | Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA)

As Asia’s top financial center, Singapore requires companies, foreign companies, and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) to maintain a Register of Registrable Controllers (RORC) with beneficial ownership details.

3. Malaysia | Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM)

The CCM maintains a registry of beneficial owners, and companies are mandated to register their beneficial owners.

4. Indonesia | Ministry of Law and Human Rights

Indonesia has a central registry for beneficial owners. All corporations must submit and update their beneficial ownership information.

5. Thailand | Ministry of Commerce (MoC)

The Department of Business Development (DBD) under the MoC does not maintain a list of beneficial owners but provides basic company information. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) mandates the disclosure of beneficial ownership.

6. Cambodia | Ministry of Commerce (MoC)

MoC does not maintain a list of beneficial owners and only provides essential company and director information.

7. Vietnam | Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI)

MPI does not maintain a list of beneficial owners and only provides basic company information.

8. Laos | Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC)

MOIC does not maintain a list of beneficial owners and only provides basic company information.

9. Brunei | Ministry of Finance and Economy (MOFE)

MOFE maintains an internal UBO register and requires companies to register their beneficial owners.

10. Myanmar | Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA)

DICA requires companies and state-owned enterprises to disclose their beneficial ownership.

11. Timor Leste | Serviço de Registo e Verificação Empresarial, Instituto Público (SERVE, I.P.)

SERVE, I.P. does not maintain a list of beneficial owners but provides basic information about companies, directors, and shareholders.


International Regulatory Frameworks

International regulatory frameworks set the legal and regulatory requirements for identifying, verifying, and monitoring the individuals who ultimately own or control legal entities. These frameworks aim to deter financial crimes and enhance the integrity of the global financial system. Relevant frameworks include:

  • United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)
  • FATF or FATF-Style Regional Bodies (Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG))
  • Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)
  • Open Government Partnership (OGP)
  • G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (G20 ACWG)
  • The Global Forum


Challenges in UBO Checks and Transparency

Southeast Asian countries face significant challenges in identifying beneficial ownership and maintaining up-to-date information, including:

  • Lack of transparency in complex legal structures and sources of wealth.
  • Insufficient data verification and documentation due to data protection and confidentiality laws.
  • Diverse jurisdictional laws and regulatory requirements.
  • Lack of sanctions and enforcement.
  • Inadequate public repositories in provincial or city registries for document retrieval.


TenIntelligence Thoughts

UBO due diligence is critical for safeguarding business interests and facilitating informed decision-making. TenIntelligence collaborates with local partners and networks and uses reliable and verifiable sources to enhance due diligence processes and reputational intelligence. Contact TenIntelligence to learn how our Intelligence team can assist you in Southeast Asia and globally.