The EU is strengthening the capacity of law enforcement authorities to fight terrorism and serious crime by improving their access to financial information. Today, the Council adopted a directive laying down rules to facilitate the use of financial and other information for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of certain criminal offences.
The existing EU directive on the prevention of money laundering requires member states to establish centralised bank account registries or data retrieval systems to allow for the timely identification of persons holding bank and payment accounts and safe deposit boxes. It also gives financial intelligence units direct access to the information held in those registries. The new rules require that member states:
- designate competent authorities (including at least asset recovery offices) which can have direct and immediate access to bank account information for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of certain criminal offences, and which can request information or analysis from the financial intelligence units
- ensure that financial intelligence units are required to cooperate with the competent authorities and are able to reply in a timely manner to requests for financial information or analysis from those authorities
- ensure that the designated competent authorities reply in a timely manner to requests for law enforcement information by the national financial intelligence unit
- ensure that financial intelligence units from different member states are entitled to exchange information in exceptional and urgent cases related to terrorism or organised crime associated with terrorism
- ensure the competent authorities and the financial intelligence unit are entitled to reply (either directly or through the Europol national unit) to duly justified requests related to bank account and financial information made by Europol
The directive will now be signed and published in the official journal of the European Union, and will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication. Member states will then have 2 years to bring into force any legislation and provisions needed to comply with the directive.