The new legislation targets virtual asset service providers established in Belgium that perform or offer these activities in a professional manner on Belgian territory. The electronic infrastructure set up in Belgium through which the aforementioned services are offered is also included in the scope (i.e. automated teller machines (ATMs) that allow for the exchange of virtual currencies against fiduciary currencies). The Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority ("FSMA") will create two registers for the various categories of virtual asset service providers. Each application for registration must clearly indicate in which register (or both registers) one wishes to be registered.
Pursuant to the Royal Decree of 8 February 2022 on the status and supervision of providers of exchange services between virtual currencies and fiduciary currencies, and custodian wallet providers ("Royal Decree of 8 February 2022"), the conditions for registration and operation of business are further specified. Thus, virtual asset service providers must permanently fulfil the following conditions in order to obtain (and maintain) registration in the register:
- Company form and minimum capital: virtual asset service providers (i) must be incorporated in the form of a public limited company (naamloze vennootschap/société anonyme), cooperative company (coöperatieve vennootschap/société coopérative), European company (Europese vennootschap/société européenne) or European cooperative company (Europese coöperatieve vennootschap/société coopérative européenne), and (ii) must have a (fully paid-up) minimum capital of EUR 50,000.
- Management and registered office: must be located on Belgian territory.
- Effective management: must consist of natural persons who have the appropriate expertise and the professional reliability required to perform their duties.
- Shareholders and persons exercising control over the virtual asset service provider: must demonstrate they are "fit" to pursue a sound and prudent policy.
- Anti-money laundering legislation: there is a requirement to (i) comply with the anti-money laundering legislation in force and (ii) provide for an independent audit function.
- Organisation: ability to (i) continuously meet legal and regulatory obligations and (ii) manage all operational risks.
- Contribution: the service provider must contribute to the FSMA's operating costs (i.e. EUR 8,000 per statute).
It should be noted that no European passport exists and, consequently, registration with the FSMA as a virtual asset service provider is only valid in Belgium.
The Royal Decree of 8 February 2022 will enter into force on 1 May 2022 and provides for a transitional regime so that the current virtual asset service providers (in the form of a legal person) can continue to offer their services until the FSMA has rendered a decision on the application for registration (i.e. within three months of the receipt of a complete file). During this transitional period, virtual asset service providers must comply with the anti-money laundering legislation in force. Two important deadlines must be met:
- 30 June 2022: deadline for notifying the FSMA that you are a provider of such services (and for obtaining provisional authorisation); and
- 31 August 2022: deadline for submitting a complete registration file.
Our Banking & Finance team will be pleased to assist you with your registration files and any other questions you may have on this topic.