Unified Register of Payment Service Users for Remittances Kept by the National Bank of Serbia

Pursuant to the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 113/2017 and 91/2019), the National Bank of Serbia shall keep a Unified Register of Payment Service Users for Remittances (hereinafter: the Register). The National Bank of Serbia started keeping this Register from June 1, 2020.

Remittances (personal monetary transfers) represent a payment service, in which the payment service provider receives the payer’s funds without opening a payment account for the payer or the payee, solely to make those funds available to the payee, or to transfer those funds to the the payee’s payment service provider. The legal definition of remittances itself implies that this is a transfer of monetary funds which is done without the payer’s and payee’s bank accounts, and this is a service that is mostly provided through global money transfer services.

Therefore, the monetary transactions in question include payment service users (payers and payees) and payment service providers.

The Register contains data on all users of the payment service for the execution of remittances, which include payers, ie. persons who send the monetary funds (in the country and abroad), and recipients, ie. persons receiving the funds (in the country and from abroad). Hence, the data in this Register refer to the users of this payment service regardless of whether they receive or send funds, but it does not apply to citizens who receive funds from abroad via payment accounts in banks, on the basis of pensions and salaries, social assistance, etc. Also, the Register contains only data with regards to the users of remittances (name and surname of the user, ID number, or passport number for foreign citizens / registration number of foreigners in the Republic of Serbia determined by the competent state authority, and user’s address of residence), while the Register does not contain data on specific monetary transactions and the amounts of those transactions.

The payment service for the execution of remittances in international payment transactions is provided by banks, payment institutions, and the Public Post Office in the Republic of Serbia, as those are authorized payment service providers for monetary transfer, using the Western Union system, MoneyGram International Inc. and RIA Money Transfer.

The National Bank of Serbia keeps this Register in electronic form, based on data submitted by the payment service providers. The latter have the obligation to regularly submit data to the Register and are responsible for the accuracy of the submitted data. The National Bank of Serbia is responsible for the identity of data received from payment service providers with the data in the Register.

Regarding the purpose of keeping this Register, the National Bank of Serbia explains that the main goal of this Register is to improve the efficiency of the system for the prevention of money laundering in connection with the execution of payment transactions. Namely, with the Law on Payment Services, the Unified Register of Accounts has been expanded to include not only the accounts of legal entities and entrepreneurs, but also the accounts of all natural persons, in order to improve the efficiency of the fight against criminal activities. Since, with the implementation of the new Law on Payment Services, licensed payment institutions which provide the service of transferring funds without opening a special account (remittance) have also started operating, there is a need to expand this record to remittance users, given the prevalence of the network of financial institutions that provide these services and the scope of these transactions. In this way, no additional rights are given to the authorities involved in the fight against criminal activities (prosecutors, courts, police and the Anti-Money Laundering Directorate), nor will they be provided with significantly different data from the existing ones regarding criminal prosecution, but this Register will enable facilitated and faster access to data on remittance users, when it is necessary to detect criminal activities, because there will be no need for these bodies to address all payment institutions, ie. to each payment institution individually (which entails untimely actions and appropriate risks), since the data will be kept centrally. At the same time, the IT solutions related to the safety of data kept in the Register entail strict control of persons who will be authorized to access this data and inspection of legal basis for access to the data in each individual case.

The National Bank of Serbia shall provide the bodies and persons authorized to inspect the data from this Register exclusively through a special application solution, based on the received request signed with a qualified electronic signature. These data may be provided to courts and other competent bodies through a special application decision and on the basis of a written request.

The data from this Register will not be publicly available and the provisions of the Law on Payment Services (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 139/2014 and 44/2018) relating to the business secret, as well as the provisions of regulations governing the protection of personal data, shall be applied to this matter.

When it comes to cross-border transfer of money in physical form, pursuant to the Law on Foreign Exchange Operations (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 62/2006, 31/2011, 119/2012, 139/2014 and 30/2018), personal transfer of funds represents a monetary transfer from the Republic of Serbia to abroad or from abroad to the Republic of Serbia, which is not based on the performance of work, but on the basis of gifts and assistance (including assistance to a family member), inheritance, rent, settlement of immigrant debt and funds carried out by emigrants, and this tranfer is performed between a resident – a natural person and a non-resident. On the stated grounds, the citizens of the Republic of Serbia can transfer funds of up to 10,000 euros per month abroad without restrictions, and in a larger amount by showing the appropriate documentation. With regard to payments for goods and services abroad, citizens, in principle, can make all payments abroad on the basis of appropriate documentation.

Statistics also speak about the importance of remittances – According to the World Bank report, remittances sent to Serbia make up 8.56 percent of the gross domestic product and are an important factor in reducing poverty in the country. Since 2004, the inflow of money into Serbia has been estimated at between 2.2 and 3.7 billion euros a year. In 2018, Serbia was ranked as the 37th country in the world in terms of received remittances, with most remittances sent from Germany. National bank of Serbia states that, in 2019, the total inflow on the basis of remittances from abroad amounted to 3.516 billion euros, which is circa  8% of GDP, while the share in the stated amount of those remittances from abroad whose users will be registered in the Register amounted to about 482 million euros .