The European Parliament and Council have agreed on a proposal which will improve the ability of law enforcement to access financial information across Member States’ borders.
Under the new measures, proposed by the European Commission to operate in tandem with the EU Anti-Money Laundering Framework, police will be able to access essential financial information internationally. The proposal is intended to accelerate the ability of EU law enforcement authorities to respond promptly to terrorism and other serious crime.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said: “If you want to catch criminals and terrorists, you need to be able to follow their money. The new rules agreed today will ensure swift access to financial information and smoother cooperation across Europe so that no criminal or suspect can slip under the radar any longer or get away with dirty money.”
While criminals are able to use modern and smart technology to transfer funds between accounts almost instantaneously, the processes which law enforcement bodies must observe when tracking such transactions are slow and cumbersome by comparison. This means investigations can be slowed down or halted altogether in part due to the lack of institutionalised cross-border cooperation and the fact that current EU rules do not specify the conditions under which national authorities may share financial data.
Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová said: “Improving the cooperation between Financial Intelligence Units and law enforcement in the EU will allow us to crack down faster and more effectively on money laundering. We need to be vigilant towards suspicious transfers of money, which can be one of the signals that a terrorist attack is being prepared. Such information needs to be relayed fast, and this can only be done if we have a strong network.”
Under the new measures, law enforcement bodies will be able to:
- Access financial information promptly from centralised registries of bank accounts;
- Cooperate with law enforcement in other Member States, as well as Europol and Financial Intelligence Units, when investigating terrorism and money laundering offences; and
- Ensure the safeguarding of citizens’ data: authorities will only be able to access information on bank account holders in specific cases of terrorism or serious crime.
Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King said: “We have been closing down the space in which terrorists and criminals operate, denying them the means to carry out their deadly attacks. Today, we are cutting this space even further, making it easier for law enforcement to access financial information to help them crack down on the financing of terrorism. I would like to thank the European Parliament and the Council for delivering on an important commitment to building a safer Europe.”
Once the new measures have been formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council, Member States will have 24 months to implement the new rules into their own legislative systems.