The Council of the European Union and the European Union Parliament have reached a provisional agreement on a law to fight money laundering. Anti-corruption experts hailed the deal as a “very good step forward”.
The agreement was reached early Thursday morning (January 18). declared It aims to fight fraud and protect “EU citizens and the EU financial system” from financing terrorist groups and organized crime syndicates.
“This will ensure that fraudsters, organized crime and terrorists no longer have room to launder their income through the financial system,” Belgian Finance Minister Vincent van Petteghem said in a statement.
Among other measures, a maximum limit of 10,000 euros will be set for cash transactions across the EU.
The agreement will force luxury goods retailers, football clubs and some cryptocurrency industry companies to treat their customers with due diligence. Similarly, some journalists and anti-corruption activists are given access to a beneficial ownership register that lists the beneficial (or “true”) owners of a company if they own more than 25 percent of a company's stock.
“We think this is a good step forward,” said Myra Martini Uractive, a policy analyst at Transparency International. “It really covers some holes and addresses some things that were problematic before.”
Martini also hailed the fact that more rules will come in the form of new EU regulations. This means that Member States are not given any discretion when implementing the provisions in national law.
“This will help ensure a more harmonized and coherent approach to money laundering across the Union,” he said. “We think that's very positive.”
Members of the European Parliament agreed with Martini's positive assessment of the deal. Luděk Niedermayer, Czech MEP from the European People's Party, who took part in the talks, saidThe agreement “will close many existing loopholes and make life much easier for money launderers.”
The order will “give oxygen to our honest citizens” and help “check the financing of terrorism”. was added Dragoş Pîslaru, a Romanian MEP from the liberal Renew Europe group, previously worked as a shadow rapporteur in the area of EU anti-money laundering legislation.
“could have been stronger”
However, Martini said Belgian Finance Minister Van Petteghem was going too far when he said that corrupt people or companies “have no decency” to move their illegal proceeds into (or out of) the EU.
In particular, rules identifying beneficial owners of companies “could have been stronger,” he said.
“One of the things we've been pushing for is lowering the threshold [für die Meldung der wirtschaftlichen Eigentümer von Unternehmen], because currently only holders of more than 25 percent of the company's shares need to be registered as beneficial owners. It's a lot easier to get around now.”
“The only improvement is for Member States to lower the threshold in high-risk cases – but that still leaves room for implementation.”
EU: A haven for money launderers?
As stated therein United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Money worth two to five per cent of global GDP is 'laundered' each year, amounting to between 1.9 and 4.9 trillion euros in 2023.
When asked how big the problem of money laundering is in the EU in particular, Martini said it was “difficult” to assess because money laundering takes place “very secretly”.
However, Martini says that banking secrecy, combined with the EU's overall political stability, has made the EU “a very attractive place for people who want to park their money safely”.
“When you combine bank secrecy with political stability, rule of law and so on, people want their money there. That is why it is not uncommon for kleptocrats and corrupt politicians to hold real estate and investments through EU companies.
The new deal is the latest anti-corruption deal reached by the EU in recent months. In December, the European Parliament and member states agreed to set up a dedicated EU anti-corruption agency, the Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA).
The location of the new authority, which will also take action against terrorism and sanctions evasion, is yet to be decided.
Member States' representatives must approve new rules and they must be formally ratified by the Council and the European Parliament before they can be incorporated into EU law.
[Bearbeitet von Jonathan Packroff/Zoran Radosavljevic/Kjeld Neubert]