The European Parliament and the European Council negotiators on June 7 informally agreed on new measures aimed to combat money laundering.
The new EU-wide rules aim to improve enforcement in this area and act as a greater deterrent to terrorist and criminal activity.
“Today we set an important milestone in the fight against money laundering,” said Rapporteur Ignazio Corrao (EFDD, IT). “This directive is an essential tool to prevent criminal and terrorist organisations financing their activities. We provide a clear definition of what constitutes money laundering, plus prosecution conditions, penalties – including additional sanctions – and the applicable aggravating circumstances.”
The agreed text now needs to be formally approved by the Civil Liberties Committee, Parliament as a whole, and the Council before entering into force.
Welcoming the informal agreement, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Over the past three years we have done our utmost to close down the space in which terrorists operate. With stronger and uniform rules on money-laundering across the European Union, we have tightened those screws even harder, making it more difficult for terrorists and criminals to get away with the profits of crime. Following the money of criminals and terrorists is an essential part of a Europe that protects and we will continue to deliver its building blocks, including this agreement, which I very much welcome.”
In turn, Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King stressed the need to “hit terrorists and criminals in their pockets”.
“The new rules agreed today are an important step in the fight against the financing of terrorism, helping to pave the way towards an effective and genuine Security Union,” he said.
Currently, all EU member states criminalise money laundering. However, definitions of criminal offences and sanctions related to money laundering vary. Those differences leave existing national rules open to exploitation by terrorists and criminals, who are more likely to commit crimes where penalties are less stringent.
The newly agreed rules harmonise the definition of criminal offences and sanctions related to money laundering, including the proceeds of cybercrime, and remove obstacles to cross-border judicial and police cooperation. At the same time, the new rules bring EU norms in line with international obligations in this area.
According to EU data, an estimated €110bn is generated from criminal activity within the EU, corresponding to 1% of the EU GDP. Depending on the member state, between 10% and 70% of criminal investigations involving money laundering have a cross-border dimension. Terrorists often finance their activities through crime and use money laundering schemes to convert, conceal or acquire the proceeds of criminal activities.