14 Dec 2017
A committee of European Union lawmakers has voted in favour of launching new fines for money laundering offences committed across the bloc.
The move is geared to address the lack of uniform definitions and penalties across the EU that currently allows criminals to exploit differences and commit crimes where penalties are lowest.
It is also aimed at stepping up cooperation between member states.
The parliamentarians (MEPs) are seeking an EU-wide minimum term of imprisonment of at least two years in cases with aggravating factors, such as organised crime.
Where a judge passes the national maximum jail sentence, it would have to be of at least five years.
They also want to introduce EU-wide definitions of money laundering related crimes.
These include matters that are not currently deemed criminal in all EU countries, such as “self-laundering,” where a person who has committed a crime tries to hide the illicit origin of those proceeds.
Other changes they seek to introduce include barring those convicted from running for public office or holding a position of public servant, and banning businesses and other legal persons from signing contracts with public authorities.
They are also calling for the confiscation of property and other assets.
Ignazio Corrao MEP, Parliament’s rapporteur on the file, said the vote marks an “important milestone in the fight against organised crime at a European level.”
“This directive will deprive criminals of their most important asset, money, and it will make it more difficult for criminal organisations to launder the profits of their criminal activities in the legal economy of the EU.”
According to the European Commission, the proceeds from criminal activity in the EU are estimated to be €110 billion per year, corresponding to 1% of the EU’s total GDP.
The Commission estimates that in some EU countries, up to 70% of money laundering cases have a cross-border dimension.
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