The Companies Registration Office (CRO) is permanently closing the public counter at its Bloom House headquarters in Dublin as there is no demand due to online filing.
The facility has been closed since the first Covid lockdown in March 2020 and has not reopened despite an official end to the pandemic emergency.
According to the minutes of the last CRO stakeholder meeting in July, members have deemed public office no longer necessary as most forms are now filed electronically under an updated filing system.
“With the new system and the increase in the number of forms that need to be submitted online, there doesn’t appear to be much demand for this facility,” the minutes read.
The proposed change raises questions about transparency and access to key corporate documents at the CRO, given recent revelations of forged records.
Five companies – four of them front companies – were convicted in separate cases in Dublin Metropolitan District Court at the end of June for failing to file ownership details under the mandatory Register of Beneficial Ownership (RBO), an initiative to combat money laundering.
They were the first prosecutions under the new anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws targeting shell companies first uncovered by one Irish Independent investigation last year.
The four come from a wave of fake companies registered in Ireland.
Experts have warned that such companies could be used to commit criminal activities around the world, including evading sanctions.
Hundreds of fake companies discovered by the Irish Independent They were found to almost always follow a basic pattern, with one director in the filing being in China and another allegedly based in a country in mainland Europe or Ireland. Previous research by Irish Independent determined that these European and Irish directorships were either false or used stolen identities.
However, the CRO does not entirely waive personal services at Bloom House.
While the stakeholder forum supported the view that it was no longer necessary to maintain a public counter, it was considered “essential” that there should be both a “courier” and a “registered post” facility if this was missing.
“It is understood that there will always be reasons why people need to call the office. We are aware that there may be court orders that need to be received and registered at a specific time, or old files that people wish to consult, and we will continue to support these requests by special arrangement,” the minutes read.
The registrar committed to consider this option as part of any plans CRO will make.
Over the past year, the CRO has faced a backlog of unprocessed annual returns, delays of up to four months in reviewing some documents due to Covid disruptions and implementing a new IT system.
At one point the backlog affected around 70,000 companies – more than a third of those who had filed at the time, meaning much of the publicly available information on Irish companies for 2021 lay unaudited.
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/companies-registration-office-to-shut-down-public-counter-for-documents-despite-recent-revelations-about-filings-by-bogus-firms-41927010.html Business Registration Office closes public document desk despite recent revelations about filings by shell companies