The EU is strengthening the capacity of law enforcement authorities to fight terrorism and serious crime by improving their access to financial information.
Today, representatives of the Council Presidency and the European Parliament reached an informal agreement on 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 informal agreement will now be presented to EU ambassadors for confirmation on behalf of the Council.
“Criminals are able to transfer illicit funds across borders very quickly. We have to make sure that law enforcement authorities can act even more quickly. The new rules provisionally agreed today will give law enforcement authorities a clear framework within which they can access and exchange financial information”.
Carmen Daniela Dan, Romanian minister of internal affairs
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:
- define those competent authorities (including at least asset recovery offices) which can directly access bank account information and request information or analysis from the financial intelligence units, and notify the Commission
- ensure that these competent authorities also have the power to access and search directly and immediately bank account information for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of certain criminal offences
- 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
Existing anti-money laundering rules at EU level focus primarily on the internal market or criminal law aspects. On 17 April 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal for a directive to strengthen the legal framework from the point of view of law enforcement cooperation, to make sure the competent authorities have timely access to the information needed to prevent and investigate serious crime and terrorism.