New rules to beef up decade-old European Union rules on cash controls were approved by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties and Economic Affairs committees on December 4. Tougher checks are now on the way.

The new rules repeal the First Cash Control Regulation (CCR) from 2005, which requires individuals to declare sums over €10,000 when leaving or entering the EU.

“Large sums of cash, be it banknotes or gold bullion, are often used for criminal activities such as money laundering or terrorist financing,” said Mady Delvaux (S&D, LU), co-rapporteur. “With this legislation, we give our authorities the tools they need to improve their fight against those crimes. The central point is their fast access to all the information they need for their investigations. We therefore ask their systems for data exchange to be interconnected and we repeat our call for an EU Financial Intelligence Unit.”

The draft law was adopted by 55 votes to 3, with 4 abstentions.

MEPs voted to close loopholes exploited by criminals, such as divergent penalties in different member states, travelling with sums just below the declaration threshold or using means of transferring value that are not covered by current rules.

To prevent the proceeds of crime from re-entering the economy or money being used to finance illegal activities, MEPs agreed to widen the definition of “ash” to include gold, precious stones and metals, as well as anonymous prepaid electronic cash cards. They also agreed to enable the authorities to impound cash below the €10,000 threshold temporarily, if criminal activity is suspected, and make it mandatory to disclose “unaccompanied” cash sent by cargo.

“We have tried to strike  the right balance between this instrument, which aims to strengthen, on the basis of internal market, the control of the cross-border cash passing through the external borders of the European Union, and protecting legitimate interests. So, making it proportional,” said Co-rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES).

Currently, approximately 100,000 cash control declarations are made per year, which amounts to €60bn to €70bn. However, during the same period, about 11,000 infringements are detected, amounting to €300m.

Member states report that Islamic State terrorists frequently transport cash amounts below the €10,000 threshold (around €7,000) to avoid detection.