European Parliament Passes New EU Rules To Crack Down On Crime Profits

The European Parliament on Tuesday approved rules to make it easier for national authorities to freeze and confiscate proceeds of crime in the European Union.

The Directive on the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime in the EU was passed by an overwhelming vote of 631 in favor, and 19 against.

Currently, less than 1 percent of the proceeds of crimes such as drug trafficking, counterfeiting, human trafficking and small arms smuggling are frozen and confiscated. The draft law is part of a broader EU strategy to fight fraud and corruption.

The European Commission's proposed directive is already informally agreed with national governments.

The Commission made ambitious proposals and the agreed EU-wide rules fill important gaps which are exploited by persons belonging to organized criminal groups.

They enhance the ability of Member States to confiscate assets that have been transferred to third parties and assets which are not directly linked to a specific crime, but which clearly result from other criminal activities by the convicted person.

The Directive also makes it easier to confiscate criminal assets even when a criminal conviction is not possible because the suspect is ill or is a fugitive and ensures that competent authorities can temporarily freeze assets that risk disappearing if no action is taken. Moreover, it recommends that confiscated assets should be reused for public and social purposes.

The new rules will allow member states to confiscate assets acquired through similar crimes, inter alia in cases of corruption in the private sector, corruption involving officials of EU institutions or of EU member states, participation in a criminal organization, child pornography or cybercrime. Extended confiscation would be possible where a court, "on the basis of the circumstances of the case (...) is satisfied that the property in question is derived from criminal conduct".

"Our priority must be to follow the money across borders and confiscate criminals' profits. Only then can we hope to reduce serious crime. Sending some criminals to jail whilst leaving the dirty money in circulation is intolerable", said rapporteur Monica Luisa Macovei.

Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, welcomed European Parliament's vote on new EU rules, "which will make it easier for the police to hit organized crime where it really hurts - by going after their profits."

"Facilitating asset confiscation will protect our economy against criminal infiltration and corruption. Recovering more assets in favor of the State will have a significant impact on victims of crime, taxpayers and society as a whole", she added.

The agreement should be formally approved by the Council in the coming weeks. Member states will have 30 months to transpose the directive into their national laws. Ireland will take part in these arrangements, while the UK and Denmark will not, the European Parliament said in a press release.

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