Today the European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on the Commission’s proposal to facilitate cross-border access to financial information by law enforcement authorities.
A political priority for 2018-2019, the new measures will allow police to quickly access crucial financial information for criminal investigations, boosting the EU’s response to terrorism and other serious crime.
Welcoming the agreement, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “If you want to catch criminals and terrorists, you need to be able to follow their money. The new rules agreed today will ensure swift access to financial information and smoother cooperation across Europe so that no criminal or suspect can slip under the radar any longer or get away with dirty money.”
“We have been closing down the space in which terrorists and criminals operate, denying them the means to carry out their deadly attacks. Today, we are cutting this space even further, making it easier for law enforcement to access financial information to help them crack down on the financing of terrorism. I would like to thank the European Parliament and the Council for delivering on an important commitment to building a safer Europe,” said Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King.
“Improving the cooperation between Financial Intelligence Units and law enforcement in the EU will allow us to crack down faster and more effectively on money laundering. We need to be vigilant towards suspicious transfers of money, which can be one of the signals that a terrorist attack is being prepared. Such information needs to be relayed fast, and this can only be done if we have a strong network,” added Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová.
With modern technology, criminals and terrorists can transfer money between financial institutions in a matter of minutes. Law enforcement’s access to financial information is often too slow and too cumbersome, preventing them from completing criminal investigations and effectively cracking down on terrorists and serious criminals. Complementing the EU Anti-Money Laundering framework, the measures agreed today will:
Allow timely access to financial information: Law enforcement authorities and Asset Recovery Offices (AROs) will have direct access to bank account information contained in national centralised bank account registries or data retrieval systems. Europol will also be able to access this information indirectly.
Improve cooperation: The new rules enhance cooperation between national authorities, Europol and the Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).
Safeguard data protection: Law enforcement will have access to limited information only on the identity of the bank account holder and in specific cases of serious crime or terrorism, ensuring that the rights and freedoms of individuals are fully protected, in particular the right to the protection of personal data.
Organised crime operates across borders
Criminal groups and terrorists are increasingly operating across borders with their assets located both within and beyond EU territory. While the EU has a strong EU Anti-Money Laundering framework, the current rules do not set out the precise conditions under which national authorities can use financial information for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of certain criminal offences.
Following up on the Action Plan set out in February 2016, in April 2018 the Commission proposed to facilitate the use of financial and other information to prevent and combat serious crimes, such as terrorist financing, more effectively. The measures, agreed today by the European Parliament and the Council, strengthen the existing EU anti-money laundering framework as well as Member States capacity to combat serious crime..
The Directive will now need to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Once it enters into force, Member States will have 24 months to implement the new rules into national legislation.