The proposals to strengthen the European Union’s ability to respond to new psychoactive substances used as alternatives to illicit drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy (IP/13/837 and MEMO/13/790) made important progress on 10 March. They were backed in the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) (51 in favour, four against). The new rules proposed by the Commission will equip the EU with a quicker and smarter system to help protect more than 2 million people in Europe who take pills or powders sold to them as ‘legal’.
"Today's vote is good news. Legal highs are not legal: they are lethal," said Vice President Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner. "Drugs don't stop at national borders. In a borderless internal market, we need common EU rules to tackle legal highs. More and more young people are put at risk through the growing number of these dangerous substances. We have to be quicker and we have to be cleverer in our reaction. I would like to thank the rapporteurs, Jacek Protasiewicz and Teresa Jiménez-Becerril for their speedy work on this important file. I hope we can make further swift progress in the European Parliament and in the Council now."
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) confirmed the cornerstones of the Commission's proposals for a more rapid system preventing harmful new substances from being sold to consumers, and for a graduated approach that responds to the risks of new substances in a targeted way.
The new EU rules will speed up the Union's action (from over 2 years to 6 months, or quicker in case of an emergency). It will allow for the immediate withdrawal of seriously harmful substances from the market for one year.
A graduated approach will result in more drugs being banned at EU level. At the moment, the Union has a choice between either imposing criminal measures to address the substance or taking no action at all. There are cases in which no action is taken at Union level because the risk presented by a substance is real but not sufficient to justify criminal measures. A more proportionate approach will mean more substances are tackled. It will also allow for legal highs with legitimate commercial uses (such as Pregabalin, a drug used to treat epilepsy or 1,4 BDO) to still be used for their legitimate, medicinal purpose.
The main changes introduced by the LIBE committee report aim to:
- Clarify the conditions under which a member state can introduce more stringent national measures to tackle the specific risks that a new substance poses in its territory, and;
- strengthen the exchange of information on and the risk assessment of new substances.
Next steps: In order to become law, the Commission's proposal needs to be adopted by the European Parliament and by the member states in the Council, following the ordinary legislative procedure. A plenary vote in the European Parliament is expected in April.
In recent years, on average one new psychoactive substance was detected every week in the EU, and the numbers are expected to increase in the coming years. Since 1997, member states have detected more than 300 substances and their number more than tripled between 2009 and 2013 (from 24 in 2009 to 81 in 2013).
A 2011 report found that the current system has struggled to keep up with the large numbers of new substances emerging on the market (IP/11/1236). The Commission's proposal will enhance and speed up the Union's ability to fight new psychoactive substances by providing for:
- A quicker procedure: At present it takes a minimum of two years to ban a substance in the EU. In the future, the Union will be able to act within just 10 months. In particularly serious cases, the procedure will be shorter still as it will also be possible to quickly withdraw substances from the market for one year. This measure will make sure the substance is no longer available to consumers while a full risk assessment is being carried out. Under the current system, no temporary measures are possible and the Commission needs to wait for a full risk assessment report to be completed before making a proposal to restrict a substance.
- A more proportionate system: The new system will allow for a graduated approach where substances posing a moderate risk will be subject to consumer market restrictions and substances posing a high risk to full market restrictions. Only the most harmful substances, posing severe risks to consumers' health, will be submitted to criminal law provisions, as in the case of illicit drugs. Under the current system, the Union's options are binary - either taking no action at EU level or imposing full market restrictions and criminal sanctions. This lack of options means that, at present, the Union does not take action in relation to some harmful substances. With the new system, the Union will be able to tackle more cases and deal with them more proportionately, by tailoring its response to the risks involved and taking into account the legitimate commercial and industrial uses.
European Commission – Drug control policy
2011 Eurobarometer on 'Youth attitudes on drugs'
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction 'European Drug Report' 2013
Homepage of European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding
Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU
Follow EU Justice on Twitter: @EU_Justice
European day on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse
On the occasion of the European day on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (18 November), the Commission reaffirmed its determination to fight child sexual abuse with all the tools at its disposal. Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas said: “Under the Security Union Strategy, we are working to protect all those living in Europe, both online and offline. Children are particularly vulnerable, especially as the coronavirus pandemic correlates with increased sharing of child sexual abuse images online, and we have an obligation to protect them.”
Home Affairs Commisioner Ylva Johansson said: “Imagine as a child victim knowing the worst moment in your life is still circulating on the internet. Even worse, imagine that an opportunity to be saved from ongoing abuse was missed because tools had become illegal. Companies need to be able to report so that police can stop images circulating and even save children.”
Over the last years, there has been a significant increase in child sexual abuse and exploitation cases and recently the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the situation. Europol found that as member states introduced lockdown and quarantine measures, the number of self-produced materials increased, while travel restrictions and other restrictive measures means that offenders increasingly exchange materials online.
In July, the Commission adopted a comprehensive EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse. Under the Strategy, we proposed legislation to ensure that providers of online communications services can continue voluntary measures to detect child sexual abuse online. In addition, Europol provides support to operations such as the recent action targeting child trafficking. The agency also monitors criminal trends in the Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) and dedicated reports on the evolution of threats, including child sexual abuse, in the times of COVID-19.
High-level conference on anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing - closing the door on dirty money
On 30 September, the European Commission hosted a high-level conference on the EU's fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. This conference marked the conclusion of the public consultation that was launched in parallel with the adoption of the Anti-Money Laundering Action Plan on 7 May 2020.
There was a series of dedicated panel debates and keynote speeches by high-profile speakers who are on the front line of the fight against dirty money, including Catanzaro Chief Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri and French Court of Cassation General Prosecutor Francois Molins.
An Economy that Works for the People Valdis Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis said: “Dirty money should have nowhere to hide. The EU has been ramping up its anti-money laundering rules. They are now among the toughest in the world - but still not enforced equally across the board. It is clear that we must do a lot more to shut off remaining loopholes, remove weak links, and co-ordinate better between EU countries. Effectiveness, efficiency, enforcement: these are the governing principles of our strategy in tackling money-laundering. They should apply across the EU and across the world. That is how we can beat it.”
Three thematic panels will cover the areas for future reform of EU rules, while a closing roundtable will bring together representatives from the European Commission, the German Presidency and the European Parliament to highlight the EU's united position and commitment to fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. Each panel will include an opportunity for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #StopDirtyMoneyEU. For more information, details on the programme and a link to the live feed, please see here.
Russian - Irish Business Council launches an inquiry into Russian businessman
The Russian Irish Business Council has launched a broad inquiry into alleged illegal activities of Russian businessman Mr. Sergey Govyadin and his close associate Mr. Ildar Samiyev.
The Council, unifying companies working in the UK, EU and Russia, have sent a letter to HSBC and a number of other financial institutions in the UK requesting information the banks might have about Mr. Sergey Govyadin. It alleges that both he and Mr. Samiyev were obviously involved in money laundering and other illegal purposes via the UK legal system and the UK offices of HSBC. The Council asks to investigate possible acts of fraud by Mr. Govyadin and Mr. Samiyev. This information was also sent to the US Internal Revenue Service for consideration and possible feedback due to its criminal background. There are indications that both are using the US monetary mechanisms for their illegal activities. Full copies of these letters can be read at the foot of this article, whilst numerous legal papers are in EU Reporter's possession.
The story of Sergey Govyadin has much in common with other infamous "new riches" from Eastern Europe who have a profound criminal portfolio.
Visibly a prosperous real estate businessman and developer, Sergey Govyadin is alleged in Russian media as being involved in many criminal cases related to fraud and other criminal incidents on selling elite property and apartments in luxurious districts in Moscow. Newspapers in Russia call Mr. Govyadin a "shadow influencer" alleging corrupt connections with a number of police authorities.
Togather with Ildar Samiyev, Mr. Govyadin has long been featured in the Russian criminal chronicle as a scandalous person, primarily found in fraudulent deals with private property and luxe apartments in fabulous districts in Moscow and in its suburbs. Back in 2015, Govyadin was “crowned” as a “successful millionaire” by tabloid press. By that time he was married to the beauty pageant - Miss Russia. However, his name remains on the lists of fraudsters and corrupt officials published from time to time by the media.
According to them, Govyadin and Samiev denigrate other people who are their partners, in order to justify their allegedly illegal transactions. In Moscow, a high-profile trial has long been underway in the case of developer Albert Khudoyan, whom Govyadin and Samiev accused of fraud and deception. As a result, the businessman was arrested. His case became additionally known due to violations on the part of the investigation. Some corrupt law enforcement officials tried to profit from his arrest according to the media.
Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov has already defended Khudoyan. However, the process against him continues. Khudoyan suffers from heart disease.
The alleged illegal activities of Govyadin and Samiyev have a long history.
For example, together with Ildar Samiev, Govyadin is alleged to have taken part in the withdrawal of funds from Russian Svyaz Bank. He is alleged to have been involved in fraud with apartments in the elite Knightsbridge residential complex in Khamovniki district of Moscow, as well as a number of other stories.
For example, back in 2014, Optima property management LLC, owned by Govyadin, took $ 95 million loan from the state-owned Svyaz Bank and used the funds to purchase 22 apartments in the elite Knightsbridge residential complex under construction in Khamovniki. This company was controlled by Sergey Govyadin and Ildar Samiev through a chain of companies, namely the Russian LLC "Eurofinance" and the English company Mansfiled Executive Limited (from 25 to 50 percent of Mansfiled Executive Limited belongs to Govyadin, according to the Endole database). At the same time, the price of apartments under the deal was inflated, which allowed to actually withdraw more than a billion rubles from the state Bank.
The residential complex was constructed in 2016. Probably, because of the extremely high price, the purchased apartments remain on the balance sheet of Optima property management, since it is impossible to sell them at such a high price. Optima properties has not yet returned the debt to the Bank, and in 2018 Svyaz Bank filed a lawsuit to recover $ 95 million from Optima property management, but failed. As a result, the state, which is the owner of Svyaz Bank, suffered, having completed its rehabilitation in 2011. The debtor has apartments on the balance sheet that are unlikely to cost more than 50 percent of the debt amount, and more than 1 billion rubles settled on the accounts of the developer Knightsbridge, controlled by Govyadin.
It is obvious that the request of the Russian Irish Business Clouncilwill be an occasion for more close and detailed attention to the illegal activities of Govyadin & Co. British and American financial institutions will hopefully be held accountable of those international speculators.
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