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New rules and guarantees in #CriminalProceedings now apply across the EU

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The directive on special safeguards for children now applies. It is the last in a set of six EU directives guaranteeing procedural rights for people across the EU, completing the full set of rights.

In addition to these new rights for children, the directive guaranteeing access to legal aid started to apply on 5 May. This package of EU rules ensures that EU citizens' fundamental rights of fair and equal treatment are respected in criminal proceedings and that they are applied in a similar way in all member states.

Frans Timmermans, first vice president in charge of the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, said: "Every year, 9 million people are involved in criminal proceedings in Europe. A well-functioning rule of law must ensure that every European can depend on getting a fair and equal treatment before the law. We need to continue to defend and nourish our rule of law so as to foster unwavering faith in our justice systems and their ability to protect all our citizens and our societies.”

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Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Commissioner Věra Jourová added: “Children deserve special protection in criminal proceedings. With the new rules, we ensure that their privacy is respected or they are detained separately from adults. In addition, everyone in the EU can now be sure to have access to legal aid if they need it. While justice must be done, we must also ensure it is being done in full respect of our fundamental rights and values."

The following rights now apply:

  • Special safeguards for children -Every year in the EU, over 1 million children face criminal justice proceedings. Children are vulnerable and need special protection at all stages of the proceedings. With the new rules applying as of today, children should be assisted by a lawyer and detained separately from adults if sent to prison. Privacy must be respected and questioning should be audio-visually recorded or recorded in another appropriate manner.
  • The right to legal aidIf suspected or accused, people have the right to legal aid, that is, financial support for example if they do not have the resources to cover the costs of the proceedings.

The EU rules define clear criteria to grant legal aid. Decisions concerning legal aid must be taken timely and diligently, and people must be informed in writing if their application is rejected in full or in part.

These rights complement the other rights that already apply in the EU:

  • The right to be presumed innocent and to be present at trialThe concept of presumption of innocence exists in all EU member states, but the EU rules ensure that this right is applied equally across the EU. The rules clarify that the burden of proof for establishing guilt is on the prosecution, rather than on the person accused to prove that they are not guilty.
  • The right to have a lawyerIf suspected or accused, no matter where the person is in the EU, they have the right to be advised by a lawyer. A right of access to a lawyer applies also in European Arrest Warrant proceedings, both in the Member State that executes it and in the Member State where it has been issued.
  • The right to informationPeople must be promptly informed about the criminal act they are suspected or accused of. They also must be promptly informed of their rights in criminal proceedings, either orally or in writing. They must be given access to the materials of the case.
  • The right to interpretation and translation Interpretation must be provided free of charge during any questioning, including by police, all court hearings and any necessary interim hearings, as well as during essential meetings between you and your lawyer.

Next steps

Member states that have not yet implemented the rules must do so as soon as possible. The European Commission will continue to work closely with Member States to ensure the rules are applied correctly for the benefit of citizens. This can be done including through workshops and expert meetings.

Background

Articles 47-49 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights protect the following rights:

The European Commission proposed the most recent three of these directives on procedural rights for suspects and accused persons in November 2013.

The two directives on the right to interpretation and translation and on the right to information apply to all Member States, except Denmark. The other four directives (access to lawyer, presumption of innocence, right to legal aid, and safeguards for children) apply to all member states, except Ireland, the United Kingdom and Denmark.

More information                                                       

Factsheet – your rights if accused or suspected of criminal offences in the EU

Crime

18 arrested for smuggling more than 490 migrants across the Balkan route

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Officers from the Romanian Police (Poliția Română) and Border Police (Poliția de Frontieră Română), supported by Europol, dismantled an organized crime group involved in migrant smuggling across the so-called Balkan route.

The action day on 29 July 2021 led to:

  • 22 house searches
  • 18 suspects arrested
  • Seizure of munitions, five vehicles car, mobile phones and €22 000 in cash

The criminal network, active since October 2020, consisted of Egyptian, Iraqi, Syrian and Romanian citizens. The criminal group had cells in the countries across the Balkan route from where regional facilitators managed the recruitment, accommodation and transport of migrants from Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Several criminal cells based in Romania facilitated the border crossing from Bulgaria and Serbia of groups of migrants and arranged their temporary accommodation in the area of Bucharest and in western Romania. The migrants were then smuggled to Hungary on their way to Germany as a final destination. In total, 26 illegal transports of migrants were intercepted and 490 migrants were detected in an attempt to illegally cross the Romanian border. Very well organized, the criminal group was involved in other criminal activities as well, such as drug trafficking, document fraud and property crime.

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Up to €10,000 per migrant

Migrants were paying between €4,000 and €10,000 depending on the trafficking segment. For example, the price for facilitating the crossing from Romania to Germany was between €4,000 and €5,000. The migrants, some of which were families with young children, were accommodated in extremely poor conditions, often with no access to toilets or running water. For the safe houses, the suspects rented accommodations or used the residences of group members, mainly situated in the areas of Călărași County, Ialomița County and Timișoara. In one of the safe houses, measuring about 60 m2, the suspects hid 100 people at the same time. The migrants were then transferred in risky conditions in overcrowded lorries between merchandise and in vans hidden in concealments without proper ventilation. 

Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol deployed one analyst to Romania to cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases in real time to provide leads to investigators in the field. 

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Crime

Fight against ransomware: New website to get help faster marks five years of ‘No More Ransom' initiative that helped over six million victims recover their data

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Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, has marked five years of its ‘No More Ransom' project with a revamped website that allows easy access to decryption tools and other help in over 30 languages. The initiative supplies ransomware victims with decryption tools to recover their encrypted files, helps them report cases to law enforcement authorities and contributes to raising awareness about ransomware. Since its launch five years ago, the project has already helped more than six million victims worldwide and prevented criminals from making almost a billion euro in profits.

The Commission is a partner of the project, together with tech companies, law enforcement, and public and private sector entities. Ransomware is a type of malware that locks users' computers and encrypts their data. The criminals behind the malware demand a ransom from the user in order to regain control over the affected device or files. Ransomware represents a growing threat, affecting all sectors including energy infrastructure or health care. Protecting European citizens and businesses against cyber threats, including against ransomware, is a priority for the Commission. You will find more information in the press release published by Europol.

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Crime

Beating financial crime: Commission overhauls anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism rules

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The European Commission has presented an ambitious package of legislative proposals to strengthen the EU's anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing (AML/CFT) rules. The package also includes the proposal for the creation of a new EU authority to fight money laundering. This package is part of the Commission's commitment to protect EU citizens and the EU's financial system from money laundering and terrorist financing. The aim of this package is to improve the detection of suspicious transactions and activities, and to close loopholes used by criminals to launder illicit proceeds or finance terrorist activities through the financial system.

As recalled in the EU's Security Union Strategy for 2020-2025, enhancing the EU's framework for anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing will also help to protect Europeans from terrorism and organised crime.

The measures greatly enhance the existing EU framework by taking into account new and emerging challenges linked to technological innovation. These include virtual currencies, more integrated financial flows in the Single Market and the global nature of terrorist organisations. These proposals will help to create a much more consistent framework to ease compliance for operators subject to AML/CFT rules, especially for those active cross-border.

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Today's package consists of four legislative proposals:

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “Every fresh money laundering scandal is one scandal too many – and a wake-up call that our work to close the gaps in our financial system is not yet done. We have made huge strides in recent years and our EU AML rules are now among the toughest in the world. But they now need to be applied consistently and closely supervised to make sure they really bite. This is why we are today taking these bold steps to close the door on money laundering and stop criminals from lining their pockets with ill-gotten gains.”

A new EU AML Authority (AMLA)

At the heart of today's legislative package is the creation of a new EU Authority which will transform AML/CFT supervision in the EU and enhance cooperation among Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs). The new EU-level Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA) will be the central authority coordinating national authorities to ensure the private sector correctly and consistently applies EU rules. AMLA will also support FIUs to improve their analytical capacity around illicit flows and make financial intelligence a key source for law enforcement agencies.

In particular, AMLA will:

  • Establish a single integrated system of AML/CFT supervision across the EU, based on common supervisory methods and convergence of high supervisory standards;
  • directly supervise some of the riskiest financial institutions that operate in a large number of member states or require immediate action to address imminent risks;
  • monitor and coordinate national supervisors responsible for other financial entities, as well as coordinate supervisors of non-financial entities, and;
  • support co-operation among national Financial Intelligence Units and facilitate coordination and joint analyses between them, to better detect illicit financial flows of a cross-border nature.

A Single EU Rulebook for AML/CFT

The Single EU Rulebook for AML/CFT will harmonize AML/CFT rules across the EU, including, for example, more detailed rules on Customer Due Diligence, Beneficial Ownership and the powers and task of supervisors and Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs). Existing national registers of bank accounts will be connected, providing faster access for FIUs to information on bank accounts and safe deposit boxes. The Commission will also provide law enforcement authorities with access to this system, speeding up financial investigations and the recovery of criminal assets in cross-border cases. Access to financial information will be subject to robust safeguards in Directive (EU) 2019/1153 on exchange of financial information.

Full application of the EU AML/CFT rules to the crypto sector

At present, only certain categories of crypto-asset service providers are included in the scope of EU AML/CFT rules. The proposed reform will extend these rules to the entire crypto sector, obliging all service providers to conduct due diligence on their customers. Today's amendments will ensure full traceability of crypto-asset transfers, such as Bitcoin, and will allow for prevention and detection of their possible use for money laundering or terrorism financing. In addition, anonymous crypto asset wallets will be prohibited, fully applying EU AML/CFT rules to the crypto sector.

EU-wide limit of €10,000 on large cash payments

Large cash payments are an easy way for criminals to launder money, since it is very difficult to detect transactions. That is why the Commission has today proposed an EU-wide limit of €10,000 on large cash payments. This EU-wide limit is high enough not to put into question the euro as legal tender and recognises the vital role of cash. Limits already exist in about two-thirds of Member States, but amounts vary. National limits under €10,000 can remain in place. Limiting large cash payments makes it harder for criminals to launder dirty money. In addition, providing anonymous crypto-asset wallets will be prohibited, just as anonymous bank accounts are already prohibited by EU AML/CFT rules.

Third countries

Money laundering is a global phenomenon that requires strong international cooperation. The Commission already works closely with its international partners to combat the circulation of dirty money around the globe. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, issues recommendations to countries. A country that is listed by FATF will also be listed by the EU. There will be two EU lists, a “black-list” and a “grey-list, reflecting the FATF listing. Following the listing, the EU will apply measures proportionate to the risks posed by the country. The EU will also be able to list countries which are not listed by FATF, but which pose a threat to the EU's financial system based on an autonomous assessment.

The diversity of the tools that the Commission and AMLA can use will allow the EU to keep pace with a fast-moving and complex international environment with rapidly evolving risks.

Next steps

The legislative package will now be discussed by the European Parliament and Council. The Commission looks forward to a speedy legislative process. The future AML Authority should be operational in 2024 and will start its work of direct supervision slightly later, once the Directive has been transposed and the new regulatory framework starts to apply.

Background

The complex issue of tackling dirty money flows is not new. The fight against money laundering and terrorist financing is vital for financial stability and security in Europe. Legislative gaps in one Member State have an impact on the EU as a whole. That is why EU rules must be implemented and supervised efficiently and consistently to combat crime and protect our financial system. Ensuring the efficiency and consistency of the EU AML framework is of the utmost importance. Today's legislative package implements the commitments in our Action Plan for a comprehensive Union policy on preventing money laundering and terrorism financing which was adopted by the Commission on 7 May 2020.

The EU framework against money laundering also includes the regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders, the directive on combating money laundering by criminal law, the directive laying down rules on the use of financial and other information to combat serious crimesthe European Public Prosecutor's Office, and the European system of financial supervision.

More information

Anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism

Proposal on centralized bank account registeries

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