Brussels, 13th November 2001
Money laundering: Commission welcomes European Parliament's approval of new Directive
The European Commission has welcomed the approval by the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg on 13th November of the proposal to upgrade the EU's money laundering Directive. The text now approved by the Parliament had been agreed in a conciliation procedure between the Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers (see IP/01/1441). The Directive will be definitively adopted once the text has also been approved by the Council, expected shortly. It would have to be implemented by Member States within eighteen months of its final adoption.
"I am delighted that the European Parliament has approved the proposal to improve and widen the scope of the EU's money laundering Directive", commented Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. "This Directive will be a significant new tool in the struggle against the financing of terrorism and organised crime, setting a new international benchmark. I am looking forward to its formal adoption by the Council of Ministers very shortly."
The proposed Directive (see IP/99/498) would extend the scope of the current Directive on money laundering (91/308/EEC). In particular, the new Directive would oblige Member States to combat laundering of the proceeds of all serious crime (including fraud against the EU budget), whereas the current Directive's obligations apply only to the proceeds of drug offences. The new proposal would also extend the coverage of the current Directive (limited to the financial sector) to a series of non-financial activities and professions that are vulnerable to misuse by money launderers. Requirements as regards client identification, record keeping and reporting of suspicious transactions would therefore be extended to external accountants and auditors, real estate agents, notaries, lawyers, dealers in high value goods such as precious stones and metals or works of art, auctioneers, transporters of funds and casinos.
The EU's Council of Ministers reached political agreement on the proposal in September 2000, and formally adopted its Common Position on 30 November 2000. However, the Parliament voted a series of amendments to the Common Position at its 5 April 2001 plenary session. These amendments were not accepted by the Council, so that a conciliation procedure had to be convened on 18th September 2001 to seek a compromise. A compromise was agreed by the Committee of Member States' Permanent Representatives on 10th October and by a parliamentary delegation on 17th October.
Under the so-called co-decision procedure established by Article 251 of the EC Treaty, the "joint text" approved by the Conciliation Committee has to be adopted within six weeks (extendable to eight weeks) by an absolute majority of votes cast in a plenary session of the European Parliament and by the Council of Ministers, acting by a qualified majority.