What has happened
The Council has approved conclusions on enhancing financial investigations to fight serious and organised crime, calling on Member States to enhance co-operation and make financial investigations form part of criminal investigations in respect of organised crime.
What does this mean
According to the Council, although the EU has significantly strengthened its legal framework for fighting money laundering and financing of terrorism in recent years, as well as for access of law enforcement authorities to financial information, further improvements are needed.
For example, the Council said that it is estimated that the proceeds of organised crimes within the EU have reached €110 billion a year and that confiscation rates remain very low.
"Financial investigations are therefore of utmost importance for the European Union in preventing and combatting organised crime and terrorism," the Council said.
The Council therefore called on the European Commission to:
- consider strengthening the legal framework on the management of property frozen with a view of possible subsequent confiscation;
- consider further enhancing the legal framework in order to interconnect national centralised bank account registries, which would accelerate the access to financial information and facilitate cross border cooperation;
- explore whether certain aspects of the work of financial intelligence units (FIUs) could be further adapted to enable a more efficient exchange of information;
- re-engage in a discussion with Member States regarding the need for a legislative limitation on cash payments at EU level; and
- consider the need to further improve the legal framework for virtual assets introduced by the Fifth AMLD24, such as by covering also virtual currencies not exchangeable for fiat money and thus achieving better alignment with current Financial Action Task Force recommendations.
The Council also called on Member States to enhance co-operation and to ensure that financial investigations form part of criminal investigations regarding organised crime, especially in drugs and firearms trafficking, organised property crime, environmental crime, migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings, trafficking in cultural goods.
Finally, the Council called on Europol, the EU enforcement agency, to use the potential of the newly created European Financial and Economic Crime Center, as a dedicated structure to support the co-operation among law enforcement authorities in their fight against frauds, money laundering, corruption and counterfeiting, while systematically promoting the recovery of criminal assets across the EU and beyond.
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