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MEPs set out new measures to stop #MoneyLaundering  

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Interconnected registers of beneficial owners, a preventive blacklisting policy and effective sanctions are among tools proposed by MEPs to stop money laundering. In a resolution adopted on Friday (10 July) with 534 votes to 25 and 122 abstentions, MEPs welcomed the Commission’s Action Plan on how to fight effectively against money laundering and terrorist financing and highlighted the most pressing changes needed to achieve an efficient EU framework.

Better implementation and co-operation

MEPs deplore the incorrect and patchy implementation of the Anti-money laundering/Combatting Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) rules in member states and call for a zero-tolerance approach and infringement procedures against member states who lag behind in transposing the rules into national law. Judicial and law enforcement authorities in member states must co-operate more and share information with each other, they say.

Parliament welcomes the fact that its proposal to create a coordination and support mechanism for Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) was taken on board. It would give member states access to the relevant information and support work on cross-border cases

Effective use of data

MEPs want the Commission to address the persisting lack of quality data to identify ultimate beneficial owners by setting up interconnected and high-quality registers in the EU with high standards of data protection. They also want to widen the scope of supervised entities to include new and disruptive market sectors such as crypto-assets. Finally, MEPs reiterate that non-cooperative jurisdictions and high-risk third countries must be immediately blacklisted, while creating clear benchmarks and co-operating with those undertaking reforms.

Harmonize dissuasive sanctions at EU level

MEPs call for the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders to be enforced. This would make criminal assets easier to recover across borders and enable swift cross-border cooperation. In addition, they want the European Central Bank to be able to withdraw the licences of any banks operating in the euro area that breach AML/CTF obligations, independently of the assessment of national AML authorities.

In the resolution, MEPs recall crimes of corruption and money laundering such as Luanda Leaks, as well as other reported scandals, such as Cum Ex, the Panama Papers, Lux Leaks and the Paradise Papers, which have repeatedly undermined citizens’ trust in fair and transparent financial and tax systems.

Finally, they highlight the valuable contribution of international investigative journalism and whistle-blowers in exposing possible crimes. They call on authorities to identify those who instigated the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and to investigate those against whom serious allegations of money laundering are still pending.

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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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.

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

Questions and Answers

Factsheet

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European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)

Fraud against the environment: OLAF and Spanish authorities bust traffic in illicit F-gases

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The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the Spanish authorities dismantled a criminal organization trafficking in illicit refrigerant gases, which are notoriously harmful for the climate. Operation Verbena led to the seizure of 27 tonnes of illicit refrigerant gases – also called F-gases or hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – and to the arrest of five people.

Operation Verbena was the biggest operation yet at EU-level against the trafficking of refrigerant gases. In addition to the 27 tonnes seized, investigations discovered 180 tonnes of illicit HFCs that were smuggled before the intervention of the Spanish authorities and OLAF. According to estimates, the criminal group is responsible for the emission of over 234,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the environment – that is roughly equivalent to a car driving all the way around the globe almost 9,000 times. Operation Verbena – which put a halt to these activities – was carried out by the Spanish Police and the Spanish Tax Agency, with support from OLAF.

HFCs are commonly used in refrigerated units and while importing them into the EU is allowed, given their significant carbon footprint imports are subject to strict quotas and regulations. According to investigations, the criminal group smuggled the gases into Spain from China by providing false information in the relevant customs documentation. The HFCs were then sold on to companies in Spain, Germany, France, Portugal and Senegal.

OLAF Director-General Ville Itälä said: "As we have been witnessing with increasing frequency, fraud and smuggling can have collateral victims such as the environment or people’s health and safety. OLAF has been working against illicit refrigerant gases for a few years now. A key element of our work is the cooperation with national authorities, with whom we continuously share our intelligence. I am pleased that we could support this successful operation by the Spanish authorities. Our cooperation with them has been, as ever, excellent and I would like to congratulate them on their results."

More information is available (in Spanish) in the press release of the Spanish Police.

Video footage of the seizure for media use is also available for download.

OLAF mission, mandate and competences

OLAF’s mission is to detect, investigate and stop fraud with EU funds.

OLAF fulfils its mission by:

·                carrying out independent investigations into fraud and corruption involving EU funds, so as to ensure that all EU taxpayers’ money reaches projects that can create jobs and growth in Europe;

·                contributing to strengthening citizens’ trust in the EU Institutions by investigating serious misconduct by EU staff and members of the EU Institutions;

·                 developing a sound EU anti-fraud policy.

In its independent investigative function, OLAF can investigate matters relating to fraud, corruption and other offences affecting the EU financial interests concerning:

·                all EU expenditure: the main spending categories are Structural Funds, agricultural policy and rural

development funds, direct expenditure and external aid;

·                 some areas of EU revenue, mainly customs duties;

·                 suspicions of serious misconduct by EU staff and members of the EU institutions.

Once OLAF has completed its investigation, it is for the competent EU and national authorities to examine and decide on the follow-up of OLAF’s recommendations. All persons concerned are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in a competent national or EU court of law.

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