A beneficial owner is the real person who ultimately owns, controls or benefits from a company or trust fund and the income it generates. The term is used to contrast with the legal or nominee company owners and with trustees, all of whom might be registered the legal owners of an asset without actually possessing the right to enjoy its benefits. Complex and opaque corporate structures set up across different jurisdictions make it easy to hide the beneficial owner, especially when nominees are used in their place and part of the structure is in a secrect jurisdiction.
Why it matters
Governments should establish mandatory public registers that disclose the beneficial ownership of trust funds and companies. Public registers of beneficial ownership would allow dirty money to be more easily traced and make it more difficult and less attractive for people to benefit from the proceeds of corruption and crime.